Parish News: Fifth Week of Great Lent

Dear brothers and sisters,

Sitting looking out onto a sunny morning, with buds breaking into leaf on the trees, it is good to reflect upon the blessings of the last week, in which I was able to visit our chancellor and the Wallasey parish.

It is always a joy to visit Wallasey, with our parish of St Elizabeth worshipping in one of the cemetery chapels, and “Little St Elizabeth’s” in the cellar of Father Paul and matushka Elizabeth’s home.

Both sanctuaries are saturated with prayer, and house many spiritually precious treasures from the Russian Imperial Embassy, from our ‘old’ cathedrals in Buckingham Palace Road and Emperor’s Gate, as well as items from our former northern parishes and the former podvorie chapel in Baron’s Court.

In Wallasey, we venerate icons that were venerated by St John the Wonderworker, our former hierarchs, and the Tsar-Martyr, and place our votive tapers in the very stands that they used in the former temples of the Church in Exile. It is particularly wonderful that the icons from the iconostasis of the episcopal podvorie grace the screen in St Elizabeth’s. I very much hope that our Cardiff and Wessex parishioners will make a pilgrimage to the Wirral and become acquainted with this wonderful parish and church, which is so representative of the particular spirituality our Church Abroad and its traditions.

I was glad to able to discuss parish life with our chancellor and look at ways to try and ease the limitations and restrictions that we continue to face as a parish without its own temple. We had time to discuss pilgrimages, youth activities, clergy formation, and the challenges of parish life.

The highpoint of my visit was the celebration of the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts.

Sadly, the lack of a place to reserve the Holy Gifts in Cardiff and limited church availability makes the celebration of this ancient Liturgy impossible at present, which is a great loss, given the beauty and solemnity of the service, in which the silent Great Entrance is made as the choir sing the anti-cherubikon

“Now the Powers of heaven with us invisibly do minister. For, lo! the King of Glory entereth now. Behold, the mystical sacrifice, all accomplished, is ushered in.”

Let us with faith and love draw near, that we may become partakers of life eternal. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Some commentators have speculated that the Great Entrance, possibly encountered by Crusaders in the Holy Land and Levant, may have been the inspiration of the grail procession in medieval romances, and its especially sacred character and solemnity are because these are not simply offered gifts, but the consecrated Holy Gifts themselves, in which the Lord is present.

It was good that Father Alban, from Durham, was also able to be with us, serving after a long journey, and before the long journey home.

Having returned to Wales on Wednesday, confessions were heard – as usual – in Nazareth house on Thursday, as they will be this week. Sister Aquinas has informed me that the daily mass will now be at 16:00, rather than in the morning, so confessions will ordinarily begin at 17:00. However, I will ask to hear some earlier for those with child-care and other responsibilities… just let me know of time limitations and I will speak to the Sisters. Emails by Wednesday at 18:00, please.

Friday saw an easterly journey for the first of our twice-monthly services in Wiltshire, where our Saturday Liturgy was celebrated in the Chapel of St Lawrence, in Warminster. We were pleased to be joined by some of our Cardiff locals for our celebration, with a litia for the departed at the end of the service, and a Lenten bring-and-share lunch.

Again, we are extremely grateful to Ian, chair of the chapel feoffees, who has supplemented the kitchen, providing a microwave-oven for us to heat food for the faithful. Given journeys from Poole and Cardiff, as well as the west of England, this is greatly appreciated. We look forward to our next Liturgy on Bright Saturday, with Paschal Hymns resounding in the chapel!

Sunday Liturgy for St John Climacus, marked the end the fourth week of the fast, and coincided with the feast of St Mary of Egypt, who will be commemorated next Sunday, as well as in the matins of the Thursday this week, when her life, by St Sophronios of Jerusalem, is read.

After discussions about the children participating the most sacred moments of the Liturgy, it was lovely to see one of our sisters usher Yuriy and Kyrill to the front with candles at the reading of the Gospel, and for them to do the same at the Great Entrance, directed by our young oltarnik, Stefan.

It was lovely to see Hierodeacon Avraamy reunited with his kamilavka and double orary, sent from Ukraine, and we look forward to having him as first deacon when we celebrate the mystery of Holy Unction in the cathedral, next Saturday.

Next Saturday’s Soborovanie / Holy Unction will commence at 14:00, and there will be opportunities to confess in the cathedral before the Holy Mystery. Those travelling by bus will be informed of the arrangements, which are being finalised, and we are encouraging our faithful to bring food to share after the service. I am very happy that there will be three parish carloads, as well as those travelling by bus, and look forward to having a group of Cardiff and Wessex parishioners joining the assembled parishes of the diocese.

Some of our parishioners have asked me to explain the offering of prosphora as Liturgy.

This practice originates in the early Church, and the expected offering of bread and wine by the faithful for the accomplishment of the Liturgy. Even though this fell out of use, the East Slavic Churches retained the tradition of the faithful presenting small loves with their commemorations for the Orthodox living and departed, with a loaf being presented with a commemorative list for the living, and one of the departed.

During proskomedia, the names of those commemorated are read out in the prayers for the living and the dead, and commemorative particles are taken in their memory and placed before the “Lamb” – which is consecrated during the Liturgy.

During the proskomedia, the arrangement on the diskos, forms a symbolic representation of the Church, in which Christ the Lamb of God is flanked by the Mother of God (represented by a triangle of beard) and the ranks of different types of saints, represented by the nine triangles in a three by three square. Before this representation of the deesis, the particles from the loaves presented by the faithful represent all commemorated on their lists – those for the faithful immediately before the Lamb, and those for the departed nearest the edge of the diskos.

After the communion of the faithful, the commemorative particles are placed in the chalice, as the deacon prayers, “Wash away, by Thy precious Blood, O Lord, the sins of those here commemorated, through the prayers of all Thy saints.”

So… when you order prosphora, you are doing so in the name and as a prayerful offering for those commemorated – which implies a list of others, though you are obviously commemorated.

Some people say, “But I’m the only Orthodox person in my family?”

There are very obvious responses.

Do you not pray for your brothers and sisters within the community; for those who have helped you in Orthodoxy through their lives, labours, teaching/preaching; for our hierarchs and clergy – whether living or departed?

We should ALL – without exception – be presenting commemorative lists, or commemoration books for Liturgy. This is our Christian duty, at Liturgy, and a basic part of Orthodox living. We list people according to their full BAPTISMAL name – no Ivans, Pashas, Mishas or Sashas, but Ioanns, Darias, Pavels, Mikhails and Alexanders. We have no vladikas, fathers or mothers, but rather list clergy and monastics as Bishop, Priest, Archpriest, Hieromonk, Monk or Nun.

If we have a commemorative book, we need to keep it up-to-date, as also our lists, if we leave them in church between Liturgies.

I shall post one of Fr John Whiteford’s article on our Facebook and WhatsApp pages.

See also:

Looking forward to Wednesday evening, or during the day on Thursday, we should endeavour to prayer the Great Canon. The Wednesday evening service will be in Llanelli at 19:00.

This Saturday is that of the Akathist Hymn of the Most Holy Mother of God, when we should all equally to pray the Akathist Hymn. Again, there will be a service in Llanelli at 19:00.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Posted in Newsletter, Parish News.