Parish News at Nativity

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is Born!

Greetings and congratulations on the Synaxis of the Most Holy Mother of God! Please do something on this second day of the Nativity feast to honour and thank the Most Holy Theotokos for the wonder of her birth-giving.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone for such a bright and radiant celebration of the Lord’s Nativity, which brought great joy and a lovely memory for us to hold as our time in Nazareth House draws to a close. We look forward to Theophany, hoping that the same radiant joy will mark our last Cathays Liturgy on the Sunday after the feast, when the great blessing of the waters will be performed in Nazareth House.

The services of the Nativity brought together around seventy of the faithful from South Wales, Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset and Bristol, and it was a blessing to have parishioners back from Ukraine and Czechia for the feast.

I was pleased that our Nativity vigil was inclusive, ensuring that there was plenty of English singing, perhaps even the majority of our chants, and I am grateful to Masha and our ‘Wiltshirites’ for their hard work, and also to our young brothers who joined me to chant the Polyeleos in skipping, joyful Byzantine chant.

It was wonderful to see people look so joyful, particularly after communion and at the end of the Liturgy during the kissing of the Cross, as our choir sang carols in Russian, Ukrainian and English, even continuing to sing after a wonderful buffet trapeza had been blessed and people broke their fast. Our trapeza reminded us how important this post-Liturgy fellowship is, and gave us something to look forward to, as our return to St John’s, Canton approaches.

Thanks to Olga and our choir for our joyful services; thank you concelebrants; thank you readers; thank you flower arrangers, bakers, cooks, cleaners, drivers… and all, whose presence and labours made the feast such a joyful occasion. Congratulations to all who partook of the most pure Mysteries, which seemed an endless number of people, with the communion queue reaching the back of the convent church.

At the end of the afternoon, prayers were offered and the kolach (festive bread), žito (kolyvo) and wine blessed in preparation for the Terzić family slava, in honour of the Holy Apostle, Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen on Tuesday, which – of course – is also the first name-day of our newly-baptised brother, Stephen, as well as our dedicated oltarnik Stefan, who assisted in the slava prayers as the man of the family. We look forward to congratulating our men named for St Stephen when we next celebrate Liturgy.

I will hear confessions on Thursday, this week, and would appreciate requests by Wednesday noon.

Saturday – the leave-taking of Nativity – will see our Nativity Liturgy in Cheltenham, with the Hours and Liturgy starting at 10:00, at Prestbury United Reformed Church, 5 Deep St, Prestbury, Cheltenham GL52 3AW. There will be. Bring-and-share lunch after the Liturgy, wo which everyone is most welcome.

Enjoy the Nativity feast and all of the Sviatky – Holy Days – from now until the Baptism of the Lord, and try to maintain the momentum of prayer and spiritual watchfulness after the days of the Nativity Fast.

May God bless you all, and may the joy of the Saviour fill your hearts, your families and your homes – where Christ has been welcomed and His Nativity glorified.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Nativity Celebrations in Cardiff

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is Born!

Wishing you a joyful, ongoing celebration of the Lord’s Nativity.

What a wonderful three days of celebration in our parish, with services in both Nazareth House and St John’s, where we celebrated Liturgy today, so that we could then have our parish Christmas lunch.

The Nativity brought parishioners together from our unlikely catchment area, enveloping South Wales, Hereford, Gloucestershire, Bath and Wiltshire. Not having had a night Liturgy after the vigil we thought that there might be quite low attendance on Friday night, but we were pleasantly surprised.

We were glad to have parishioners from our Llanelli mission for the well attended Christmas Liturgy, with over seventy people, including parishioners’ visiting families, the core of our Cheltenham mission, and new visitors. The Nativity Liturgy was particularly joyful, with extra Ukrainian singers moving to the kliros for the Liturgy and then for koliadky after the service. One of our young parishioners commented on feeling awestruck and spiritually warm at the Liturgy – and hearing this brought great joy.

As we no longer have anywhere to eat in Cathays,  we were glad to celebrate the Synaxis of the Mother of God in St John’s today, where our parish had it’s ‘temporary’ home for several years. The familiarity of the church, with its kitchen and space to eat, was much appreciated and nobody was in a rush to leave.

We were happy to welcome first-time visitors, including friends of our Serbian parishioners, for whom bread, zhito (kutia) and wine were blessed in honour of the holy Apostle, Protomartyr and Archdeacon, Stephen, for their family slava, tomorrow. After the blessing of the offerings, the golden Slavski kolač was incised with a cross into which the blessed wine was poured, before the turning of the loaf by the members of the Terzic family and the priest. Young Stefan, played his part in the breaking of the loaf and the kiss of peace as the halves were placed back to back and turned.

For many of our parishioners, this was the first time they had witnessed the slava prayers and blessing – and a good opportunity for them to learn the Orthodox traditions of their brothers and sisters.

We wish Branka, Stefan and Tara a blessed and joyful feast: Srećna slava!

Following the slava blessing, parishioners enjoyed a wonderful Nativity feast of delicious festive food, with plenty of Russian, Ukrainian and Serbian favourites, with the rector being very happy to celebrate the Nativity with shuba and kulebiaka!

So many people worked very hard, singing, serving, baking and cooking, arranging flowers, setting up the churches and putting everything away again – as well as transporting things to and fro. Thank you everyone!

Also, thank you for the great seasonal kindness and generosity shown to the South Wales ROCOR clergy. Thanks also to the Sisters of Nazareth, who have shown such incredible warmth, generosity and kindness in positively encouraging our return to Nazareth House. It is wonderful to be back there, and to have their friendship and encouragement. We are truly blessed.

Glory to God for all things!

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark