The Feast of St Philip of Moscow With Bishop Irenei

Dear brothers and sisters,

Given the great spiritual, physical and culinary labours of the last few days, there are, no doubt, many people in our community who are tired, but saying “Slava Bogu… glory to God!” for the blessing of being able to welcome our hierarch and archpastor, Bishop Irenei to Cardiff – with today’s hierarchical Divine Liturgy as the crown of our celebration.

After more than a year and a half since his last hierarchical visitation, Vladika’s visit was important, especially given the great changes and expansion in our parish and local missions since the trials of covid and lockdown.

We rejoice that we were able to come together as a scattered community of Orthodox faithful, representing our Cardiff parish and our Cheltenham and Swansea missions, with the blessing of welcoming Deacon Andrey and Reader George to serve with us. The contribution of Hierodeacon Avraamy – now blessed to serve in our South Wales communities – was also most welcome.

Gathered around our hierarch, the Liturgy expressed the spiritual bond and catholicity/sobornost of our common and shared life as the Church, in which each of us called to individual ministry and vocation, as alluded to by Vladika in his homily.

Within our community we glorify God for so many vocations, great gifts and talents – in singing, reading, icon painting, cooking, liturgical expertise, floral craft, and the simple ability to organise hospitality and to welcome all who gather not only to the Holy Table of the eucharist, but also to the table of Christian fellowship to share in food and drink.

As well as catching up with familiar parishioners in the parish, His Grace was able to meet those who now travel from England for Liturgy, those baptised since his last visitation, and our catechumens, several of whom will be baptised in the next couple of months. For many parishioners this was their first meeting with Vladika, and for some, it was there first encounter with an Orthodox bishop – and such a personable, warm and positive one.

We were also very happy to welcome our brother-priest, Father Sorin of the Romanian Parish of St Stephen, and were so pleased that he was able to meet Vladika Irenei once again, and join us for trapeza.

The festive table on this feast of the Holy Hieromartyr, Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow summed up the wonderful diversity of our parishioners – with Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Romanian, Spanish, British and Caribbean fare feeding all those assembled, as well as supplying many parishioners with meals for the next few days.

We are so very grateful to all who contributed so generously, and especially for Melangell who took on the role of Senior Sister, having this episcopal visitation as her first rather daunting duty, ceremonially starting with the welcome she offered to Vladika, with the traditional offering of bread and salt, after which the children of the parish offered posies of flowers to their bishop.

We are particularly indebted to our kliros and oltarniky, for their part in the Liturgy, particularly to our oltarnik Oswald, who so capably served with Reader George in fulfilling what would ordinarily have been the obedience of subdeacon.

As Vladika commented, it is the choir who face the greatest challenge in the Hierarchical Liturgy, given the many variations from our usual celebration. May God bless you all!

Thank you everyone for your many and varied offerings, obediences, gifts, generosity and goodwill in making the feast of St Philip such a truly memorable and joyful day and for welcoming Vladika Irenei to lead us in our celebrations.

Above all, we express our thanks to His Grace Bishop Irenei, for his fatherly love and care, and for visiting and nurturing his flock in the fullness of Orthodoxy within our God-Preserved Diocese.

Eis polla eti Despota!