Dear brothers and sisters,

Given that today is the beginning of the Apostles’ Fast, I should have sent out the weekly parish news last night – as a reminder – but after the rigours of the previous four days I was falling asleep whilst at the computer.

Having celebrated the Sunday of All Saints in Cardiff yesterday, we now have the month long Apostle’s Fast until the feast of the Holy Chief Apostles, Peter and Paul, on 29 June / 12 July (at least for those following the Patristic Calendar).

We should be reducing our food to one formal meal a day, and remember that it is both normal and fine to have periods of hunger during fasting periods.

During the coming week, our food is vegan until the weekend, when fish is permitted, and the typikon envisages:

Monday: By monastic charter, strict fast (bread, vegetables, fruits)

Tuesday: Food with oil, wine permitted.

Wednesday: By monastic charter, strict fast (bread, vegetables, fruits)

Thursday: Food with oil, wine permitted.

Friday: By monastic charter, strict fast (bread, vegetables, fruits)

Saturday: Fish wine and oil permitted

Sunday: Fish wine and oil permitted

We should fast as strictly as possible, with the fasting guidelines as our ideal, though some of our parishioners have health issues that have been discussed, so that economia can be applied and blessed. Strictly keeping to the rules, particular regarding no oil on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays may be unsustainable for some parishioners for domestic and practical reasons, but those who can keep to this are encouraged to do so. However, there is no excuse for wine and alcohol when it is not allowed by the typikon.

As I have stressed many times – it is not our local tradition to eat shell-fish and sea-food (whatever happens in other local Churches), as there is nothing particularly ascetical about sitting down to a sea-food risotto, octopus stew or pan-fried squid. The fast should be a challenge, and monotony is totally acceptable. In the fast, we eat to live, NOT to enjoy – even tough we find ourselves enjoying the simplest foods and realising the joy of what is simple and basic.

A major problem in the “Lesser” Fasts, is keeping spiritual momentum, and making them a time of spiritual growth and focus when they do not have the clear thematic shape of the other fasting seasons of the year. Having celebrated the Sunday of All Saints, it would be good for us to do what I touched upon in my homily, and use this period to connect with the saints, ensuring that we read the life of one of the daily saints EVERY day during the fast, and chant their troparion and kontakion. As well as this, we might make our spiritual reading-matter hagiographical, putting aside other books so that we may read longer lives of the saints – for which there are so many wonderful books available.

Lets ensure that we don’t just drift through this fasting period aimlessly and casually. Seize the opportunity to invigorate spiritual life, through the prayers and examples of the saints. Be inspired and act!

After the busy-ness of the last week, I shall be trying to rest a little in the week ahead, with confessions on Thursday (email requests by Wednesday noon, please) and Deacon Mark and I will be celebrating the Liturgy in Cheltenham on Saturday, with the Hours at 10:00 and the Liturgy at 10:30. We are still worshipping in Prestbury United Reformed Church – Deep St, Cheltenham, GL52 3AW.

I would like to remind parishioners that those communing of the Holy Mysteries should be in church from the beginning of the Liturgy, and that the Gospel is the traditional ‘absolute’ cut-off point for communicants. I appreciate that some parishioners are making long-journeys and some are at the mercy of public transport, which often goes wrong, so economia is applied. However, parishioners living in Cardiff have little or no excuse to be arriving at Liturgy after the beginning of the service.

One of our sisters is kindly making small prosphora to offer for commemorations at Liturgy, as in the local East Slavic Churches it is the tradition to offer one or two loaves with our lists of names or commemoration books. Though the vast majority of our commemorations are made before the arrival of the faithful, due to times restrictions, this does not prevent the offering of prosphora – traditionally one for the living and one for the departed. We need to get into the habit of this everyday liturgical practice.

Finally, an immense thank you to those who have worked so hard over the weekend – particularly for our pilgrimage. Everything was a wonderful offering to the Lord, given with joy and gladness.

May He bless those who laboured so willingly for the parish as His chosen flock, to His praise and glory, and in honour of His favoured daughter, St Melangell. May she intercede for us.

With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark

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