Parish News: 26 June

Dear brothers and sisters,

Having already celebrated the Sundays of All Saints and of All Saints of the lands of Rus’, yesterday was the Sunday of All Saints have who have shone forth in the Isles of Britain – though some Orthodox parishes across different jurisdictions celebrated this the previous Sunday.

Through prayer and pilgrimage over the last year, as groups and individuals, we have been blessed to deepen our relationships with our local saints who are part of the vast cloud of witnesses we celebrated – St David, St Non, St Teilo, St Illtyd, St Brigid, St Melangell, St Aldhelm and other saints of the British Isles: visiting their shrines and the places where they lived, venerating their relics, chanting their hymns and services. We look forward to continuing building on this wonderful foundation of holiness.

Next Sunday, as well as celebrating the saints of the day, we will also celebrate the memory of St Calogero, the refugee-saint of Sicily, whose icon was gifted to us by Father Efraim Augello and matushka Olympia, who serve in Sicily. At this time, when so many refugees have found temporary refuge in South Wales, our Venerable Father, Calogero (wherever he hailed from… North Africa, Byzantine Asia Minor?) reminds us that many saints fleeing heresy, persecution, war and revolution have sowed the seeds of Faith in foreign fields far from home, and have brought an abundant harvest to Christ.

Given the ongoing hot weather and its effects on health and mobility, to say nothing of the transport system, I am limiting my movements this week – especially as my weekend continued with a pastoral visit in Cheltenham last night and several more today, with the temperature and humidity on the trains and in hotel accommodation being a challenge.

Norman and Georgina have confirmed that we are able to resume our discussion group, on prayer, this Friday at 19:00 in the parish room at the church of St Mary the Virgin, North St, Butetown. I shall hear confessions before the service, making time for any longer confessions – as needed –  in Nazareth House in the afternoon, as well as for those who are unable to come later on. Please email me regarding confessions by Wednesday midday.

As there will be visitors from London next Sunday, I would also appreciate knowing who wishes to confess that morning. If impediments make weekday confession impossible when I am not in Cardiff on Saturdays, please check regarding Sunday morning. There is usually a gap of twenty minutes before anyone arrives for confessions, which potentially provides time for several people. As announced at Liturgy, please persist in trying the door-handle if you are struggling to enter the church, turning it to the left. Yet again, this work, we had people unable to access the church for confessions because of recurring problems.

As our numbers are already dented by parishioners’ travels and knowing of the holidays booked by our “pilgrimage-core”, looking forward to July, there is no organised parish pilgrimage apart from the visit a few of us will make to Walsingham.

However, I am always happy to go on pilgrimages should those round next month wish to visit a local holy place, and would like to encourage parishioners to, perhaps, visit the Serbian Orthodox Church in Birmingham for the weekly Friday akathist before the Three-Handed Icon of the Mother of God, painted in the Athonite Monastery of Hilandar. It is a copy of the wonderworking icon of the Mother of God, and has itself been a source of grace for the faithful.

Happily, after Liturgy and trapeza, yesterday saw Steve being admitted to the catechumenate, and we congratulate him on this step towards Holy Baptism.

May God bless you all, and the week ahead.

In Christ – Fr Mark

Parish News Round Up

Dear brothers and sisters, 

I hope that the Advent Fast is proving to be a spiritually fruitful time for all in our Cardiff and Cheltenham parishes. 

It is wonderful that my full-time appointment coincides with this season, allowing me to spend time with parishioners – especially those who have joined us since the summer. Simply having the time to chat and correspond by whatever means suits people is wonderful. 

It has also been good to spend time with friends of the parish, with last week seeing ‘catch-ups’ at the Oratory and the Catholic Chaplaincy, allowing discussion of present Russian Orthodox life and the development of the parish – not to mention some temporary limitations since the community left Nazareth House and moved to St John’s. 

One of the fruits of these discussions is the hope (and intention) to establish regular prayers before the relics of St Alban, who is the de facto patron of the British part of our diocese. It is a great blessing that a portion of his sacred relics are here in Cardiff, and we look forward to regular prayers and veneration at the shrine in the Oratory Church. 

Last weekend saw the celebration of the Kursk-Root Icon in Cheltenham (albeit a day late), with the Divine Liturgy celebrated in Prestbury, where the United Reformed Church remains our temporary home. 

It was a joy to be together, with the gathered congregation witnessing to the parish’s faithfulness to ROCOR and our Diocese, whatever virtual-reality, PR and spin is being propagated in cyber-space. 

Though Cardiff friends of the parish were unable to attend Liturgy this month, the faithful still travelled from North Wiltshire, Exeter, and the Forest of Dean, in addition to our Cheltenham and Gloucester parishioners. It was a great joy to see parishioners who are usually unable to attend on Saturdays, due to work commitments, but who changed their work plans to be able to attend Liturgy during the Fast. 

Though the little chapel is bare, as we would expect in a Nonconformist setting, our faithful brought icons to place on the window-ledges, vases of flowers to place before the icon-stands, and fragrant herbs with which to adorn the icons. 

We very much enjoyed being able to sit down to a hearty lunch after Liturgy, with friendly conversation and social-time together. 

Sunday’s Liturgy, in Cardiff, was especially bright and joyful, reflecting Aleksandra’s return from London. The singing on the kliros was excellent, with Agni Parthene (O Pure Virgin) chanted beautifully during the veneration of the Cross and the parish Kursk-Root Icon. We look forward to the visit of the Kursk-Root Icon itself to Great Britain, hoping that there may be a visit, however short to our Welsh capital and our Cheltenham Community. 

This Friday will see another Advent Moleben and reflection in the parish-room at St Mary Butetown, which provided an excellent venue, last week. 

Having reflected on the many meanings of Christ as the Eternal Logos, last Friday, we will remain with the Prologue of St John’s Gospel, reflecting upon the Saviour as the Creative Word of God: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” 

Many thanks to Norman and Georgina for making arrangements with Fr Dean, to whom we are especially grateful for allowing use of the parish-room. 

Though I will confess a few parishioners on Friday, the weekly parish confessions for our locals will be on Saturday, so please let me know, as usual and the clergy will arrange a ‘rota’.  

I will, of course, confess those travelling from farther afield on Sunday, though there will be no ‘over-flow’ after the Liturgy, as we will have the joy of baptising baby Adam from Hereford at 14:00. This will mean that trapeza will not be so long in duration. Support at the baptism would be lovely, and we look forward to seeing Adam, as the last time we saw Ekaterina she still had a few months of pregnancy left. 

I will confess our travelling parishioners from 10:15 before Sunday Liturgy, and ask for advance notice, given that this time is a challenge for us. 

We very much look forward to celebrating the feast of St Nicholas, and the variables for the Liturgy may be found here:

In Christ –

Hieromonk Mark