Dear brothers and sisters,
It has been wonderful to receive calls and messages from our faithful, during the course, of Sunday afternoon, confirming how well the parish coped without a priest, due to my isolation, which sadly precluded the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
This was the first time that the congregation had assembled for public worship without a priest, and a valuable (if unplanned) lesson in prayer and worship
However, the parish proved itself capable of coping in such circumstances, with the chanting of the Hours, the sung Typika and moleben to the Mother of God in honour of her Kazan Icon, demonstrating that when the unexpected happens, worship can continue with beauty and solemnity.
As I have already said in communication with parishioners, reader-services or services according to the lay-order (Богослужение мирянским чином), are very much part of the liturgical history of the Orthodox Church, latterly in the vastness of Russia, where some outlying settlements and hermitages, only had priestly services very rarely.
Between the visits of priests, the services were led by non-ordained monastics and lay elders. As in the desert of Africa, where the early monasteries and hermitages usually lacked clergy, lay liturgical practice was firmly established and was well known in each religious community.
I previously wrote on Facebook
“With the acquisition of some familiarity and knowledge of the order of the services and the sources for their parts, liturgical prayer without a priest is possible. This, perhaps, is the cue for us to start studying the liturgical cycle and to learn how to pray liturgically in the absence of clergy.
Many of us, have at some time in our lives, discovered this Tradition, largely through our physical distance from Orthodox parishes and services…”
I hope that we will be able to share the knowledge of reader-services in our Cardiff and Cheltenham communities, giving parishioners the confidence to come together for common worship without clergy.
I would like to thank our Deacon for taking the reins on this occasion.
We are, as always, indebted to our kliros and readers for their devoted service, and owe great thanks to matushka Alla for the flowers that adorned the icons bringing so much joyful colour to the celebration.
I look forward to returning from my enforced retreat, adding that I am in good spirits, despite fatigue, tinitus and headaches. I look forward to serving our Cheltenham and Cardiff faithful next weekend.
Asking your prayers.
May God bless you.
In Christ – Hieromonk Mark