Parish News at the Beginning of Great Lent

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings on this first day of the Great Fast, and thanks to all who contributed to our weekend celebrations in Cheltenham and Cardiff.

Having left maslenitsa behind, and having enjoyed sharing both food and one another’s company, we now enter into the Lenten season with a first week that is dominated by the words of the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete.

Having commemorated the fall and the casting out of Adam and Eve from Paradise in our Sunday services, the Great Canon explores man’s sinful rebellion through the ensuing generations of humanity, not only using the myriad examples as a warning, but also positively focussing on the mystery of repentance and return to God, Who desires the repentance, return and restoration of all of His children.

Through the many Biblical examples we hear, we are called to action in these days of the Great Fast, to wake up and take our spiritual life and our salvation seriously, through obedience, repentance, prayer and fasting.

As we hear in the kontakion,

“My soul, my soul, arise! Why are you sleeping? The end is drawing near, and you will be confounded, awake then and be watchful that Christ our God may spare you, Who is everywhere, and fills all things.”

Now is the time for us to arise from slumber, and even as the natural world around us comes to life and brings forth flowers and blossoms, the season of the Fast needs to be a time of growth and blossoming for us, with the knowledge that blossom becomes fruit.

At 16:00 this afternoon, and on the next three afternoons there will be a quiet celebration of compline, with the reading of the Great Canon at the shrine of St Alban, in the Oratory Church of St. Alban-on-the-Moors, Swinton Street, Splott, Cardiff, CF24 2NT.

I know that some of our Wessex parishioners are coming together to chant the canon, and encourage all who are unable to get to a service to add it to their evening prayers, at home.

The Great Canon will likewise be chanted in the Chapel of Saints David and St Nicholas in Llanelli at the later time of 19:00 each evening. Compline with the Akathist Hymn will be chanted there at the same time on Friday.

This Saturday – 23rd March – will see our March pilgrimage to Margam Abbey, where the Divine Liturgy for the Saturday of St Theodore will be celebrated at 10:30.

At the moment, only a tiny handful of parishioners have indicated their intention to attend, so please let me know if you are coming, especially as we may need to coordinate some student-lifts or pick-ups from Port Talbot railway station. As usual, there will be a bring-and-share lunch after Liturgy, with food obviously being Lenten. May I remind you that it is not our local tradition to eat shellfish, whatever happens in other jurisdictions.

As announced at Liturgy and in previous newsletters, the mystery of Holy Unction will be celebrated in our London Cathedral at 14:00 on Saturday 20th April, when His Grace, Bishop Irenei will concelebrate with the clergy of our diocese to consecrate the Holy Oil of Anointing for the strengthening and healing of those who receive partake.

All Orthodox Christians of seven years and over may be anointed at the service, providing they are in good standing within the Church and have prepared by fasting and confession.

Looking forward to next Sunday, when we will celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy and the restoration of the holy icons, weather permitting, we will preform a cross-procession / krestny khod at the end of the moleben and we would like parishioners to bring icons to celebrate this triumphal first Sunday of the Fast. Trapeza offerings have the weekend relaxation permitting wine and oil, but no shell-fish / sea-food, please.

I will hear confessions, as usual on Thursday, though they will be in St Alban’s Church before our 16:00 service. If you require a later confession, please let me know, and I will arrange early evening confessions in Nazareth House.

I hope and pray that this week is one of simplicity, withdrawal and peace for you: a week of as few words as possible, with electronic devices switched off unless needed for specific reasons, social-media on the back-burner, a minimal diet that does not try to imitate the food of the rest of the year with ‘pretend’ substitutes, and silence that allows you to hear the birds singing as spring gathers pace and the rumbles of a stomach that is fasting!

Everyone should know, but a reminder that our diet is vegan, and we should forego olive oil and wine (alcohol) on weekdays. Saturday as the Sabbath, and Sunday as the Lord’s Day, have the consolation of wine and oil. Finding food with no oils or vegetable fats can be difficult, but avoiding fried food, sauces and dressings, and obviously oily food is pretty straightforward!

Twenty of our parishioners are reading a kathisma of the Psalter each day, ensuring that it is completed in the parish each day, and I would encourage everyone to read the Psalms of David as much as possible during Lent.

May God bless you and the arena of your Lenten struggle. Καλό Στάδιο!

Asking your forgiveness, for Christ’s sake.

Hieromonk Mark

Posted in Newsletter, Parish News.