How awesome is this place…

Dear brothers and sisters,

This weekend was blessed with the Divine Liturgy in Cheltenham and Cardiff, bringing our communities together to celebrate the Holy Mysteries and share the communion of the Lord’s Body and Blood.

Each of these services was not celebrated in the consecrated Byzantine ‘otherness’ of an Orthodox sanctuary, surrounded by icons and lamps, and walls and domes painted with angels and saints, flickering the light of hundreds of candle and lamp-flames.

Rather, the Liturgies were celebrated in the plainness of a little Victorian Congregational Chapel and a Victorian parish church surrounded by horse-chestnuts and red-brick terraces. Yet, they began with the same priestly proclamation, as the sign of the Cross was made over the antimins with the Gospel: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…”

When we pray and worship together in peace and unity; when our spiritual gifts and capabilities are woven together in eucharistic offering; when we assemble as a community to offer not only the Holy Gifts, but our whole selves and lives to God; when we gather in love and fellowship to share the Lamb of God who is “broken but never divided, ever eaten but never consumed” – we reflect the life of the Triune-God as a community of love. We anticipate the mystery of the eternal Eighth Day and receiving a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven, towards which we journey in the pilgrimage of the Christian-life.

Independent of our environment and the lack of an ‘Orthodox setting’, in the otherness of the Liturgy – so different from the hours of work and labour, employment or unemployment, cooking, cleaning and family life – Christ calls us to put aside the cares of the world, “that we may receive the King of All, who comes invisibly upborne by the angelic hosts”.

Our weekly eucharistic journey into the Kingdom is reflected by His journey into the borrowed buildings in which we are able to celebrate, and the little chapel in Prestbury and the Victorian interior of St John’s are transfigured and joined to Heaven.

They may be far from the ideals of the sanctuary in which we wish to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and worship as Orthodox Christians, yet we must be grateful for God’s mercy and grace, and mindful of the ongoing miracle of His revealed-love in these humble places.

Beneath their roofs, the Saviour is welcomed week by week, as we chant “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord”, and they become the sacred ground at the foot of the Heavenly Ladder on which the Lord descends, so that we may join the Patriarch Jacob and say,

“How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Services in Cardiff this weekend: 9/10 October.

Despite it being the second Saturday of the month, there will be no Cheltenham Liturgy, as the United Reformed Church is unavailable. Cheltenham Liturgy will be on Saturday 16 October.

Compline will be celebrated at St John’s, as usual, at 16:30 with confessions being heard during the service.

The Divine Liturgy and Hours will be celebrated on Sunday at 11:00.

Would those requiring Sunday confession please contact me – otetzmark@hotmail.com – so that we have some idea of how many are confessing. We need to consider how we manage this, as there is presently insufficient time for everything that needs to be done before the beginning of Liturgy.

Please consider preparing food for our post-Liturgy ‘social’, being mindful that some of our faithful have a very early start and long journeys to and from the Liturgy.

Liturgy variables:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iheXDdQHfvzlTpMuJzqVn7gXKn5gbuF_/view

Cheltenham Liturgy: Saturday 16 October

It is with great pleasure that we are able to announce that our next Cheltenham Liturgy will be celebrated in Prestbury United Reformed Church on Saturday 16 October, with confessions from 09:15, and the Hours and Liturgy beginning at 10:00 (subject to the number of confessions).

I very much hope that the Liturgy may be supported by our Cardiff and Wiltshire faithful, among whom are very some loyal friends of our Gloucestershire community. The very short notice before last weekend’s Liturgy made it impossible for some of our Welsh faithful to attend, though they would very much have liked to be with their brothers and sisters in Cheltenham for the celebration.

Falling, as it does, just after the feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, we will belatedly celebrate the Feast of the Pokrov, asking Our Lady’s protection for the Cheltenham Faithful.

In our prayers, we commend the ROCOR parish of St Vladimir to the Protection of the Queen of Heaven, that they may resist the many temptations raised up against them at this time.

Today in Cardiff

Dear brothers and sisters,

It was wonderful to look out of the sanctuary after proskomedia and see so many new faces today, together with the latest parishioners and friends who have returned from their summer travels in Russia, Ukraine and beyond.

At the same time, we missed some of our parishioners who are unwell, sending them our greetings and assuring them of our prayers!

Our kliros was buoyant and the singing bright, the number of confessions and communions spiritually encouraging, and our antidoron was stretched to the limits at the kissing of the Cross.

During the litia after Liturgy, we prayed for the soul of the newly departed handmaiden of God, Svetlana, and ask your continued prayers for the repose of her soul; we blessed Phanouropita and even began the preparations for a St Nicholas Day baptism – and all of this before lunch and the parish meeting.

Father Deacon Mark will publish the meeting minutes in due course, but we warmly congratulate Norman John on his election as starosta, after much support, coaxing and nomination by our parishioners, who  were unanimous in approving his election. We wish him, and Georgina who will help him in her usual selfless way, Many Years and God’s blessing in fulfilling this obedience.

In reporting to the meeting as rector, I was keen to recognise the spiritual growth of the parish since our last parish meeting, shortly before the first lockdown, and for those who were not at the meeting I will venture a few observations.

Sadly, there are those whom we have not seen since the first lockdown, but – amazingly – we now have a committed procession of people week by week, making their way from Bath and Avon, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, faithfully supporting the parish and contributing greatly to parish life: singing, serving, sanitising St John’s and performing other welcome obediences.

Without exception, they all settled into parish-life without stopping to take a breath, and it is now very strange when they are unable to be with us. At the same time, our local parishioners have shown great warmth and openness, in welcoming and including our new parish family members from across the Severn. What a blessing it is to be the rector of such a parish.

Thanks are due to parishioners for their gifts of wine, incense, icons, garden produce and pryanik. It was rather like the end of the Christmas Vigil!

Your prayers are asked for those about to travel – for Olga and Andrew, and for Elena; for Subdeacon Peter who is sick, and for the Archimandrite Mefody, Svetlana, and Igor– all newly departed.

Finally, may I remind all in church that whilst lunch is being uncovered and refreshments prepared, the thanksgiving prayers are being offered. All who have received Holy Communion should be present for them, unless they have an obedience that requires them to be in the kitchen or at the table. In this case, they should be prayed at home.

I look forward to us celebrating our first Liturgy of the Church Year, next Sunday, after the beginning of the New Indiction on Tuesday. Before then, we will gather for compline on Saturday at 16:30, at which time confessions will be heard.

May God bless you all, and protect our faithful brothers and sisters on their travels.

In Christ – Fr Mark

Services and confessions this weekend.

Dear brothers and sisters,  

May I remind you that this coming Sunday of the Dormition, God willing, our Liturgy will be at the unusually early time of 06:00, due to Anglican use of St John’s around noon. 

The Liturgy itself, NOT the hours, will start at this time, and we must vacate the church by 08:30, as there is an Anglican service at 09:00. Please arrive promptly. Although this is an extra early start, especially as we usually begin the Liturgy three hours later, all (especially communicants) should be in church for the initial blessing of the Liturgy. We understand that those travelling distances may be unable to be there for 6:00, but those living in Cardiff should be in church for this early start. Remember, this is what our Romanian sister-parish has to do EVERY week! 

The early start will make it impossible to hear confessions before Liturgy, but although it cannot be guaranteed, there may be time for confessions for those travelling from Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, afterwards. In this case, confessions will need to be brief, as there is no leeway regarding our departure time. Anyone hoping to confess on Sunday should email me: otetzmark@hotmail.com 

Parishioners have suggested a post-Liturgy gathering for ‘coffee and cake’ (or something more substantial in the café, perhaps) in Canton’s Victoria Park, which seems an excellent idea. So, those who would like to join this gathering should bring their flasks and supplies, or we could stage an Orthodox takeover of the park café. It should open at 08:30 and provide shelter, should the weather be inclement… which would be traditional for our Welsh summer. 

Should anyone feel so inclined, the remaining day could possibly accommodate a visit to a local holy place. Suggestions please! 

Confessions for local parishioners will be heard on Saturday, when – God willing – we will celebrate compline at 16:30. Sadly, although Saturday is the feast of the Dormition, I was unable to take the day off from my secular employment and will have to work until 14:30.

Sunday, the second day of the Dormition, will be the feast of the Icon of the Saviour ‘Not Made by Human Hands’ (the Mandilion / Holy Face) and the Icon of the Mother of God the Giver of Reason (Pribavlenie Uma). 

The variables may be found, as usual, at the Orthodox Austin website: 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zkb0J92JqJjw6fsYni7ln5hx9br-RNw4/view 

I look forward to celebrating with all who are able to gather on Sunday.

Asking your forgiveness for Christ’s sake. 

Spasi Gospodi – Fr Mark 

 

The Week Ahead

Dear brothers and sisters,

Thank you all who contributed to today’s Liturgy, and a joyful celebration of the feast of St Seraphim, and thank you to our parishioners who sent greetings from their holidays in Russia and Ukraine!Continue reading