From Transfiguration to Dormition

Dear brothers and sisters,

What a busy three days we had from Friday to Sunday, with Friday ‘s Transfiguration Liturgy in Butetown, Saturday Liturgy in Cheltenham, and yesterday’s Liturgy in Canton.

Our Cardiff celebrations brought worshippers from Bath, Stroud, Chippenham, Warminster and the Forest of Dean, in addition to our locals. It also meant that we were able to bless the home-grown fruit and produce of three English counties as part of our Transfiguration celebrations!

Though our Cheltenham Liturgy only brought a dozan of us together, it was a joyful occasion, with a second blessing of fruit and produce and a wonderful meal with everyone around the table chatting, welcoming new arrival from Khmelnitsky.

Having had the blessing of been able to celebrate services with the faithful in Wiltshire in the last fortnight, and then Cheltenham, being able to serve the faithful in their home environs is a great blessing, and I think all who have provided transport for making this possible.

Sunday was certainly one of my busier days, and such was the volume of confession that they exceeded time before proskomedia, continuing whilst Deacon Mark prepared the chalice for communion, and also after Liturgy. Together with spiritual counsel to individual parishioners this lasted until 15:30, by which time virtually everyone had gone.

I am sorry that I was unable to socialise, eat and talk with parishioners at trapeza, but it was simply not possible, given pastoral needs on an unusually busy day. However, in future, this needs managing, as the only time we are all together is for Sunday Liturgy and trapeza, and the faithful must have the opportunity to talk to there priest.

Some of you will remember how days like yesterday became normal when we first came to St John’s, so that I hardly ever had time with parishioners after Sunday Liturgy. This must not be allowed to be ‘normal’.  It is both amusing and apt that in Cheltenham, our matriarch. ‘mama Galina’, will not allow eating unless the priest is sitting at the table, insisting that this is the rule, and that everything else must wait until after trapeza.

Such a long ‘priest-day’ is, of course, the result of our not being able to enter St John’s until 10:15ish, leaving only 45 minutes before the Hours and proskomedia.

As I’ve commented before, in Nazareth House, I could be in the church two and a half hours before the Hours, having had hours to hear confessions the previous evening. This allowed ninety minutes for confession on Sundays, as proskomedia – apart from the day’s zapisky – had been completed before anyone arrived.

Since those days in Cathays, we have also gained parishioners from Gloucestershire, Northeast Somerset and Wiltshire, whose confessions are not possible in the week, as is the same for some of our older South Wales parishioners. They must have time for confession on Sunday morning.

The almost impossible juggling is one of the main reasons we need the use of a building with early access. Ideally, at least an hour is needed for the proskomedia, not twenty-five to thirty minutes, plus time to say the entrance prayers a vest before doing so. The present situation puts a strain on both time and clergy and needs to be appreciated by those confessing. This is why we have been so blessed to have Father Luke’s assistance and patience on so many Sundays, when he hears many confessions.

On the confessional theme, this week’s confessions will be on Thursday, in St Mary’s, Butetown, as the church will be unavailable on Friday. May I ask for requests by noon on Wednesday, to allow time to email those confessing.

Saturday will see Tracey’s baptism at 14:00 at Menna’s home in St Nicholas in the Vale, with our service for the eve of the Dormition at the end of the afternoon.

On Sunday, our Dormition Liturgy will be celebrated with the Hours, at 11:00, in St John’s Church, Canton. The variables may be found, as usual, at Orthodox Austin:

You are encouraged to bring herbs and flowers to place around the plaschanitsa of the Mother of God, as it is traditional for us to bless them to distribute to the faithful at the end of Liturgy!

I also encourage you to continue to dedicate this second week of the Dormition Fast to the Mother of God, and will continue to post the English translations of each evening’s Supplicatory Canon – not that they have to be only in the evening, but can be prayed at any time!

Remember that the afterfeast of the Transfiguration lasts until Friday, and try to include the troparion and kontakion – possibly other hymns of the feast – in your daily prayers.

Praying that the All-Merciful Lord may bless and protect you – Hieromonk Mark

Preparing for the Dormition

Dear brothers and sisters,

With yesterday’s feast, we began the Dormition Fast, which is a small but strict period  of abstinence before our celebration of the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God and her Assumption into Heaven.

This feast is a powerful echo of the Lord’s Resurrection and, as such, it is our Summer Pascha. This is reflected in the various ceremonies and services celebrated across the Orthodox world for the feast, including the Burial Service of the Mother of God, which mirrors Holy and Great Saturday.

Given this Paschal nature of the feast, it is not surprising that we should prepare with fasting. But, what about our spiritual preparation in terms of prayer?

The spiritual praxis of the Great Fast is shaped by the Lenten Triodion, but the other fasting periods of the year have no such source of a schematised liturgical framework.

However, in the Greek tradition, the Great and Small Supplicatory Canons to the Mother of God are chanted in a pareklisis/ moleben each night up until the eve of the feast, starting with the Small Supplicatory Canon if August 1st (14th New Style) falls on a weekday, but with the Great Supplicatory Canon if August 1st falls on a Saturday or Sunday.

The canon is not chanted on Saturdays, being the eve of the Lord’s Day, and on the Lord’s Day the Great Supplicatory Canon is chanted unless it is the eve of Transfiguration, when the vigil will be celebrated.

Having said all of this, the Great Supplicatory Canon is not traditionally part of Russian liturgical custom, as only the Small Canon was part of the transmitted liturgical tradition at the time it was received form Byzantium.

As I’ve posted before, there are actually fifty-six Supplicatory Canons to the Mother of God in the Octoechos (the book of the eight tones, from which we take the daily variables on our eight-week cycle). In each tone, there is a canon for use at compline for each night of the week.

Reflecting our own Slavic tradition, it would be good if the faithful could integrate either the Supplicatory Canon from our prayerbooks, or the Supplicatory Canon of the day into evening prayers, in preparation for the celebration of the Dormition.

For the Canons of the Octoechos, see:



The canons are to be found in the compline variables, and we start are currently in Tone 8, returning to Tone 1 on Saturday evening, at vespers.

The refrain between the verses is, of course. ‘Most Holy Theotokos, save us’, with ‘Glory be to the Father etc.’ before the penultimate troparion, and ‘Both now and ever etc…’ before the final troparion in each ode.

These are days in which we should be seeking to draw closer to the Mother of God, as we spiritually approach her Falling Asleep, to joyously celebrate her new life – body and soul – with her Son in Heaven.

Wishing you a good struggle with prayer and fasting. Find time for the Mother of God in these two weeks of fasting, and thank the Lord for her maternal care for the Church and Christian people.

May God bless you –

Hieromonk Mark

Today’s Liturgy and the Blessing of Honey

Dear brothers and sisters,

It was – as always – a great joy to gather today for the Divine Liturgy, followed by the veneration of the Precious Cross and the blessing of honey.

Though yesterday was the feast of the Procession of the Life-Giving Cross and the All-Merciful Saviour, we were unable to have Liturgy, so we ‘caught up’ with August’s first feast of the Saviour at compline yesterday evening and today, after Liturgy.

The icon of the All-Merciful Saviour

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