As of December, 2009, this blog is inactive at this location. All posts have been transferred to the new location here. You are very welcome to read and comment.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

The fermented juice of the grape, good and wholesome

Iknow that liturgically, the Orthodox amongst our number did this back September, and others at the beginning of December, but I just wanted to wish everybody the best for the new year. Thanks to all for all of your comments, advice, guidance and general fun over the past ten months or so. I look forward to more.

New Year's Resolutions

I hate them! Loathe them! Detest them!

I can't stand the way that those of us who don't make them are made to feel as though we're somehow lazy. I hate the smugness that often comes my way from those who make this an important part of this time of year. I pity the same people when they put themselves down for having failed to keep their resolutions.

I am making a resolution. This happens to fall on New Year's Eve, but let the reader understand that this is most emphatically not a New Year's resolution!

I started a new job in September 2002. Life was going rather well, and I was quite pleased at being able to wear rather closely-fitting garments, as I had just made my way down to 11st 2lbs from in excess of 13st. My ideal weight is between 10 and 12st. I recently saw this photograph of myself from a Ship of Fools meet in Leeds, dating from the spring of 2003, (which shows me with glass-in-hand, as usual). I did a mental comparison of how I looked then to how I look now and reverted back to the denial that I have been engaging in for some months now. The last time I weighed myself was about 6 months ago, and I weighed just under 15st. I mentioned earlier on this blog that I haven't been getting out very much lately for certain reasons. One of the results of this is that I have spent very little time doing the activities that I usually would be doing, and so have put even more weight on.

The worst of it was yesterday, when I saw my best friend for the first time in months, and, knowing that I had gained weight, was embarrassed to have him see me. This is somebody I love dearly and whom I know loves me, and so I know how foolish it was of me to have felt this way. I decided today that I have to do something about it. (Again, the time of year is pure coincidence).

I have tried various diets over the past two years or so but have realised that the first time I intentionally lost 2st nearly three years ago was at a time when I followed my own judgment on these matters and not some fad diet. Therefore, I'm going to do the same again. I'm going to face the reality that there is a lot more of me than there healthily ought to be and so I have just ordered a scale from Argos, which should arrive on Wednesday, at which point I plan to mark my starting point, and see where I go from there each week.

I ask for your support and prayers.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Is patience really as much of a virtue as it is often made out to be, or is it often used as an excuse, perhaps unwittingly, to try to avoid having to deal with things in our lives, to make decisions and to actually use the good sense that God has given us to bring things into being?

Do we perhaps worry how we may appear to others as impatient in making some choices? On the other hand, are caution, prayer and contemplative thought not warranted when making significant decisions?


Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Christmass!

A happy and holy Christmass to all of you who are celebrating the Incarnation of our Lord at this time. Many blessings.

Friday, December 23, 2005

O Holy Night!

Heaven, preserve us!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

St Werburgh of Chester

Thine illustrious life filled the angels with awe and put the demons to flight in terror, while it adorneth the congregations of the faithful with the splendour of grace, O venerable mother Werburga! As in thy charity thou didst extend thy love to all thy fellow creatures, intercede with God in our behalf, that our souls be saved from perdition!

In the year 597, 560 years after St Dorotheus of Tyre dates Bishop (Saint) Aristibule as bringing the Christian Faith to England, one of the greatest difficulties faced by the missionaries in reintroducing the Church to the areas invaded by the pagans from northern Europe was the division of the land into a number of often warring kingdoms. The most effective way of overcoming this disunity was dynastic marriage between members of the royal families, families which, once Christianised, were able to spread the Faith with immense zeal. In this undertaking the main and vital role was played by queens and princesses, the women of the royal families, who, as ever, showed far greater sensitivity to the Truth of Christ than the men. Many of them, as widows, together with unmarried sisters or daughters, turned to the monastic life, which in turn helped weld together the seven kingdoms into national unity. Indeed, Old England had no fewer than thirty-seven holy abbesses, many of them of royal origin. The family tree of this golden age of holiness starts in 597 with the first convent, Ethelburt, King of Kent. From his family emerged an extraordinary catalogue of twenty-seven Saints, including St Werburgh.

On her mother's side, St Werburgh was descended from a long line of Saints from the kingdom of Kent. Her father. however, was Wulfhere, prince of the newly-converted Mercia, and her father's father was none other than Penda, the war-like pagan King of Mercia, responsible for the deaths of Christian kings from neighbouring kingdoms - St Oswald, King of Northumbria and St Sigebert, King of East Anglia. Her father died when she was young and so she was brought up by her great-aunt, St Audrey, at Ely, later going to Minster-in-Sheppey in Kent with her mother St Ermenhild and her grandmother, St Saxburgh.

No doubt here she made the acquaintance of her cousins, Milburgh, Mildred and Mildgyth, and the Kentish and East Anglian traditions of family and monastic piety handed down through the generations, as well as the advice of spiritual fathers and mothers whom the family had known, going right back to St Augustine himself. She was destined to take back these traditions with her to her native Mercia. A late tradition says that Werburgh had a suitor whom she rejected, and it was he who was responsible for martyring her two brothers, Wulfhad and Ruffin, who were protecting her. However this may be, it is clear that, when still young, she had already chosen the monastic life. She was to become nun and then abbess at Minster-in-Sheppey and then at Ely itself. But this was not to last.

On account of both her spiritual and practical experience in the great convents of England, she was invited by her father's brother, King and later St Ethelred of Mercia, to take charge of convents in Mercia, at Weedon, Hanbury and Threckingham. Stories about her from this period particularly concern her links with the animal world. A picturesque legend describes the control she had over wild geese which were devastating crops at Weedon. Abbess Werburgh ordered them into a stable and such was their obedience that next morning they asked her to be released. Another story, which shows her humility, is that of how at Weedon she protected a cowherd, Alnoth, a man of simplicity and holiness, from a cruel steward. She threw herself at the steward's feet and asked him to spare Alnoth, whom she said was more acceptable to God than any of themselves. Later, the same cowherd was to become a hermit in nearby woods at Stowe, and then murdered. He was venerated locally as a Saint on 27th February.

The Abbess Werburgh reposed at Threckingham on 3rd February in about the year 700, certainly not later than 710. Apparently at her own request, the relics were taken from Threckingham to Hanbury, where they remained until 875, much venerated. In this year, for fear of the Danish invasions, the holy remains were transferred to Chester, to the church which became known as St Werburgh's. This is the beginning of her long connection with that city, and she is often called "St Werburga of Chester". The site of St Werburgh's church is today that of Chester Cathedral, where part of the stone base of her shrine still survives. In 1540, Henry VIII made the abbey church of St Werburgh into a cathedral, and, as protestants often did, like the Normans before them, rededicated it. However, even today, it still keeps its link with the Saint through the name of the street leading to the cathedral - St Werburgh Street. St Werburgh's prayers were much sought by the young, especially children and young women.

The church at Hanbury is still dedicated to St Werburgh and this may mean that she actually founded the convent whereas she only reformed Weedon and Threckingham. Near Hanbury, another dedication is at Kingsley. Churches at Derby and nearby Spondon and Blackwell are also dedicated to her, and these, too, are probably her foundations, for it is known that she laboured here and also in nearby Repton. Although Chester was rededicated at the reformation, in Cheshire, the village of Warburton is named after the Saint, (Werburgton), and the church there is also dedicated to her, apparently on the site of a monastery. In the Midlands, there used to be another village, now lost, called Werburgewic.

Werburgh's presence is also remembered in Kent in the present-day village of Hoo St Werburgh near the convent at Minster-in-Sheppey and previously in another lost village of Thanet, Werburghingland. Other dedications to her are in Bristol, Wembury in Devon, and at Treneglos and Warbstow (the "stow" or "holy place" of Werburgh), in Cornwall. These dedications may represent a distribution of relics of the Saint in the West.

This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared in Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition, and is here reproduced by kind permission of Fr Andrew Phillips. The ikon of St Werburgh can be venerated at the Garden Chapel of St Werburgh of Chester at 52 Hawthorne Close in Congleton.

Monday, December 19, 2005

'Religion doesn't come into it'

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined upon the world the light of knowledge; for thereby, they that worshipped the stars were taught by a star to worship thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to thee!

This is the troparion from the Feast of the Nativity of OLaSJC. What really touched me was the words, they that worshipped the stars were taught by a star to worship thee.

When I was 15, I moved away from the Anglican Province of the West Indies, which is very much influeneced by the general culture of Christianity in that part of the world. Sola Scriptura may not be official policy, but it is almost certainly part of the pew-culture. I felt so liberated when I moved back to the UK and the Church of England, I was presented with entirely (to me), new perspectives on matters of faith. Things were no longer quite so rigid, and there was an acceptance of difference of belief about various issues, which was affirmed as ok. I saw this as a very good thing at the time.

However, I have seen this taken to its extreme, and the universalist position does worry me. The extent to which this has taken hold in much of Christianity has become more apparent since the beginning of my journey towards Orthodoxy. I am firm in my expression of Orthodox Faith - what the Church is, the Sacraments as means of grace of the New Covenant - and I am accused of being exclusive, of regarding the unbaptised (which, I hasten to add, includes me), as having second-class status - this is what is levelled against me for having dared to link saving grace and being part of the Church with Baptism. This from supposedly Christian voices!

I see Christians accused by other Christians of being exclusive and triumphalistic simply for expressing their beliefs in Christianity as Truth, to the exclusion of religious traditions that differ from Christianity. This astonishes me. Surely, a Christian is a Christian because he believes Christianity to be true. If he didn't believe this, how could he be a Christian? Why would he want to be?

Is it part of the culture of "church" being reduced to a social club of people who have bake sales and bingo and who get together every now and then to sing a few hymns and say prayers? The same culture that reduces worship to entertainment, so that the gathered community is the focus? So that the priest has to face the worshippers throughout the service to engage with them? So that they have to see everything that goes on otherwise they feel deprived? The same culture that cancels Christmass services because the audien... erm... congregation won't be large enough tomake it worthwhile? Is it part of this? Has this mentality become so entrenched that people see church as a place where we have fun and get on, and where people who make a fuss about what we believe and how this should be reflected in the way we worship, are just rocking the boat unnecessarily? I cannot help but think that this disregard for the core purpose of our Faith in some circles is directly related to the rise of universalism.

I'm reminded of To the Manor Born, when Richard DeVere is being reprimanded by the former Lady of the Manor for not going to church. His response is, 'But I'm not religious', to which Audrey fforbes-Hamilton retorts, 'Religion doesn't come into it'.

I wonder just how much truth there is in this.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

That secular jamboree that they dare to call Christmass

This was how the worldly approach to "western" Christmass was referred to in passing in today's homily.

I'm not going to rant about the secularisation of Christmass, as much webspace has been dedicated to that already. To be honest, I'm rather weary of people moaning about it all the time. It's usually the same people who then go out and buy cards, presents, wrapping paper, &c. and just join in with it anyway.

No. My purpose is to express the feelings of utter relief that I am currently experiencing. I am aware of the world around me, with its hustle and bustle, and the rushing and worrying, and I am extremely grateful that I no longer have to be part of this rush bthat I used to dread each year.

Actually, I managed to avoid it last year as well, but it was so difficult breaking social and family norms and expectations. For example, I don't send cards and I prefer not to receive them. If people give them to me, I am grateful for them but I don't see that as setting up some sort of need for me to reciprocate. I felt better for it in the end, but it was as though I had to be constantly explaining myself, as the secular focus has definitely become the norm in large sections of society. At least this year I have the valid reason that Christmass for me is nearly two weeks after the big event. People seem to be a lot more respectful of this.

Let's see how it all goes.

Odds and ends

I'm sorry for my absence from the blogosphere lately. I haven't forgotten you, my friends. I've been a bit all over the place lately and not been sure exactly how coherent I could be while putting my own thoughts and experiences into words.

My fellow catechumen has been poorly these past few weeks gone. Please remember him in prayer. His elderly mother is also quite ill and he has been very busy lately with other issues, which have been resolved in his favour, but which must have been exhausting nonetheless.

The result is that I have been sitting outside during the Liturgy very much on my own these past couple of fortnights. I almost burst into strains of All by myself today. However, I was very touched when another one of our very musical people approached me afterwards and said, 'You need to get baptised soon - the music really suffers when you leave', which I thought was a really nice thing to say, and which I needed to hear.

Father Paul says that he thinks that Pascha would be a good time to have us both received. Originally, he had said between Theophany and Pascha, so I'm glad for a little more precision and also the knoweldge that I shan't be expected to be submerged in the Irish Sea in the dead of winter.

Also, the Kursk Root Icon is coming to Great Britain during January. I'm not sure yet what its itinerary is, but I would love to be able to venerate it.

There's also talk of a visit to our parish by our bishop at some point during the course of the year. That should be all good fun. The significance of this may not be realised by those whose bishops live in the same country as them, but Archbishop Mark lives in Munich, and has never visited our parish before, so it will be rather a significant event.

I think that's about it for now. I'll try to be around more often. :-)

M x

Well done, Joe and Ian!


Our own Joe and Ian were both received into Orthodoxy last Sunday and today (or yesterday, depending on where you are), respectively.

Please remember them both in prayer.

God bless you both, and grant you many years!

Friday, December 02, 2005


It's all still a bit new to me although it's going well. Lots of fruit and veg.

Talk about keeping regular!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

New 'ymn

I've managed to cough up another one. The last verse still needs to be tidied up a bit and I'm not entirely sure that it's The Done Thing (TM) to paraphrase the Cherubic Hymn and arrange it in metrical form, but there we have it.

Let us, who in a mystery,
exalt God's holy Name -
the life-creating Trinity,
from age to age the same,
now worship with the cherubim
with praise upon each tongue,
with 'Holy, Holy, Holy', bow,
and thus join in their song.

O let our minds be filled with grace,
God's name within our hearts;
let worldly thoughts and earthly cares
now from our thoughts depart,
so that, within our bodies, souls
and minds, we may receive
the King of kings and Lord of lords,
the Christ, the Prince of Peace.

He comes, invisibly upborne
triumphantly on high,
by rank on rank of angel-hosts
to us, who make our cry:
'We sing to God the Trinity,
we come from near and far,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
and thrice Alleluia!'

(c) Michael Astley 2005

I haven't decided on a tune, but it's Double Long Metre. Still working on it.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Theft, invasion and insecurity

I've been having anxiety attacks lately and have had a lot of trouble going out. I've been fine in familiar surroundings, such as church, but most public situations, including travelling on public transport to get anywhere, have been rather traumatic. Even answering the phone sometimes is a chore, if I don't know who's calling. Consequently, I've spent most of the past six weeks indoors, on my own for the most part while my housemate has been at work, and my main contact with the rest of humanity has been through the internet.

Yesterday, a good friend came round to spend a few hours, and we stepped out to see Tim Butron's The Corpse Bride,(which was wonderful, by the way). It was the first time I'd been out to spend time with friends for ages and it was great to get out the house. When I stepped out of the cinema, I switched my phone on to receive a text message from my housemate, informing me that that house had been broken into. When I got in, I realised that the one and only thing that had been taken was my laptop.

I was angry at first, but then accepted the loss. My main upset was that I had been so invaded. My bedroom is MY space. Only very rarely do house guests enter it and then only my closest friends. Yet there was my room, the contents of my drawers all over the floor, the belongings from under my bed scattered all over and my computer gone. I felt extremely unsafe last night and took my icon of St Michael to bed with me.

Now I'm here on my own, using my housemate's laptop which he'll be taking to work with him in a few minutes, knowing that I'll probably spend the day watching The Golden Girls.

I must admit that I'm finding it difficult to believe that, for the past six weeks, there hasn't been more than half an hour when the house has not been occupied, and for the first time in six weeks I step out for more than an hour and we get burgled. The police were here within the hour and were brilliant. they were so efficient and sensitive and I plan to write a letter saying so. The forensic chap came round a little later and dusted for prints (which I had only ever seen before on TV). It all seemed so dramatic.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I may not be online for a while for any more than occasional visits. I got the laptop last December and the insurance did cover theft but I can't remember whether it was a 6 or 12-month cover so I'll make the necessary phone calls today. if any of my friends receive any untoward contact from me electronically, please know that this is not me but my computer being used by somebody else.

With prayers,

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Prayer Book

Again and again in peace, let us pray to the Lord

My Prayer Book arrived today. Wahey! It's the Holy Trinity Monastery one, printed for the Church Abroad.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Royal Passion-bearers of Russia

Most noble and sublime was your life and death, O Sovereigns;
wise Nicholas and blest Alexandra, we praise you,
acclaiming your piety, meekness, faith, and humility,
whereby ye attained to crowns of glory in Christ our God,
with your five renowned and godly children of blest fame.
Martyrs decked in purple, intercede for us!

The sermon that we were given on the 4th of July (New Calendar 17th) this year emphasised the humility and humiliation of the final years of the Passion-bearing Royal family of Russia, and the steadfastness of their faith in light of this. As I have come to understand it, it was for this reason that they are venerated as Saints of the Church. However, in various places, I have seen this veneration come under attack by those who focus on some of the perhaps less savoury aspects of the former years of Ss Nicholas and Alexandra, ignoring the actual reasons for their glorification. The statement from the Patriarchate of Moscow in 2000 included these words:

In the last Orthodox Russian monarch and members of his family we see people who sincerely strove to incarnate in their lives the commands of the Gospel. In the suffering borne by the Royal Family in prison with humility, patience and meekness, and in their martyrs' deaths in Ekaterinburg in the night of 4th/17th July 1918 was revealed the light of the Faith of Christ that conquers evil.

As somebody who struggles to live the humility of Christ, I am increasingly finding a special place for the passion-bearing Royal Family of Russia in my devotions. To be reduced from a position of great elevation to their final state must have been a difficult adjustment to make. To face and embrace that with faith is a mark of true Christianity. The significance of this is heightened for me at the present time because of some issues that are currently affecting me personally. I believe that the Moscow Patriarchate venerates them as Passion-bearers and not Martyrs, because their faith was not the reason for their deaths. I do have some difficulty with the Church Abroad's recognition of them as Martyrs but this isn't an insurmountable issue for me.

What I do find insurmountable is the venomous loathing often expressed towards them. In my (admittedly limited) experience, this has not come from people of Russian descent, but from those who have studied the events of the reign of Tsar St Nicholas and focus only on the bad. I fail to see the Christian charity in this and I find this very upsetting. May the example of the Royal Passion-bearers cause the veil of bitterness to be lifted from their hearts.

St Nicholas, pray for us.
St Alexandra, pray for us.
All Holy Passion-bearers and New Martyrs of Russia, pray for us.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Reformation Sunday- cause for celebration?

I have recently learnt about Reformation Sunday and I must say that it leaves me feeling rather uneasy.

Firstly, let me state that I am not ecumenist. One of the reasons I grew discontent with the Church of England was its embracing of mutually-exclusive beliefs as Truth. I have very firm beliefs about what the Church is and where its boundaries lie. However, I do not believe that God is restricted to the Church and that he can bestow his grace outside of it (although it is not my place to state definitely that he always does). I also believe that some degree of Truth exists outside of the Church (although not in the fulness in which it is to be found in Orthodoxy), and that the majority of Christians outside the Church are people who are genuinely trying to live in accordance with God's will to the best of their knowledge. Because of this, I find the hostile dismissal of everything outside of Orthodoxy by some Orthodox as slightly distasteful, and which is why I was interested to hear of Reformation Sunday.

Now, I have said before elsewhere, that, while I have respect for people's right to hold whatever views and beliefs they wish, if I believe those views to be wrong and affirming of fallacy, then I cannot respect the actual views. I can usually do this with some degree of indifference. However, reading about Reformation Sunday actually leaves me feeling rather unwell. The reformation achieved the following:
- the acceptability of the denial of aspects of God's revealed Truth within Christianity.
- the furtherance of teachings contrary to the Faith within Christianity.
- the primacy of the individual conscience over the teaching of the Church where the two conflict.
- excessive pain and suffering.
- numerous deaths.
- 500 years of further division among Christians.

Now, I have seen other commemorative days for events of the past, among them, the regicide of King Charles I. Some editions of the Book of Common Prayer contain a service commemorating the day, and it is clear from the prayers of this service that this is a service of penance and reparation for the murder of the King. However, by contrast, from what I have read of Reformation Sunday, it appears to actually be a celebration! I am really struggling to understand why any Christian would want to celebrate such a thing. Even if people disagree with the first three of my points above, surely the last three are reason enough for this not to be a time of jubilation. The sad and tragic effects of the reformation are still felt to this day, as I'm sure we are all too aware.

This coming Sunday, I shall be remembering all of this, and my prayers on that day shall include petitions for the unification of all Christians, and that within our Mother, the Catholic and Apostolic Church. I invite you to join me.

From Good Friday in the Sarum Missal:

O Almighty everlasting God, who savest all men, and wouldest not that any should perish; look on those souls which have been deceived by the fraud of the devil, that, laying aside all malice and heresy, the hearts of the erring may learn wisdom, and return to the unity of thy Truth. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dear Saint of our Isle!

Hail, glorious Saint Patrick, dear Saint of our isle!
On us, thy poor children, bestow a sweet smile;
and now thou art high in the mansions above,
on Erin's green valleys look down in thy love.
On Erin's green valleys, on Erin's green valleys,
on Erin's green valleys look down in thy love.

Hail, glorious Saint Patrick! Thy words were once strong,
against Satan's wiles and an infidel throng;
not less is thy might where in heaven thou art;
O, come to our aid, in our battle take part.
On Erin's green valleys, on Erin's green valleys,
on Erin's green valleys look down in thy love.

In the war against sin, in the fight for the Faith,
dear Saint, may thy children resist unto death;
may their strength be in meekness, in penance, in prayer,
their banner the Cross which they glory to bear.
On Erin's green valleys, on Erin's green valleys,
on Erin's green valleys look down in thy love.

Thy people, now exiles on many a shore,
shall love and revere thee till time be no more;
and the fire thou hast kindled shall ever burn bright,
its warmth undiminished, undying its light.
On Erin's green valleys, on Erin's green valleys,
on Erin's green valleys look down in thy love.

Ever bless and defend the sweet land of our birth,
where the shamrock still blooms as when thou wert on earth,
and our hearts shall yet burn, wheresoever we roam,
for God and Saint Patrick, and our native home.
On Erin's green valleys, on Erin's green valleys,
on Erin's green valleys look down in thy love.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Lorica of Saint Patrick

Hail glorious Saint Patrick, dear Saint of our Isle!
On us, thy poor children, bestow a sweet smile.

+ I arise today
through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
through a belief in the Trinity,
through confession of the Unity
of the Creator of creation.

+ I arise today
through the strength of Christ's Birth and Baptism,
through the strength of his Crucifixion and burial,
through the strength of his Resurrection and Ascension,
through the strength of his descent for the judgment of doom.

+ I arise today
through the strength of the love of cherubim,
in obedience of Angels,
in service of Archangels,
in the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in the prayers of Patriarchs,
in the preaching of the Apostles,
in the faith of Confessors,
in the innocence of Virgins,
in the deeds of righteous men.

+ I arise today
through the strength of heaven;
light of the sun,
splendour of fire,
speed of lightning,
swiftness of the wind,
depth of the sea,
stability of the earth,
firmness of the rock.

+ I arise today
through God's strength to pilot me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guide me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
from snares of the devil,
from temptations of vices,
from every one who desires me ill,
afar and near,
alone or in multitude.

+ I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of paganism,
against false laws of hereticks,
against craft of idolatry,
against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul,.
Christ shield me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so trhat reward may come to me in abundance.

+ Christ with me,
+ Christ before me,
+ Christ behind me,
+ Christ within me,
+ Christ beneath me,
+ Christ above me,
+ Christ on my right,
+ Christ on my left,
+ Christ when I lie down,
+ Christ when I sit down,
+ Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
+ Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
+ Christ in the eye that sees me,
+ Christ in the ear that hears me.

+ I arise today
through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief on the Trinity,
through a confession of the Unity
of the Creator of creation.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

So, what's this "Orthodox" thing then?

So, are you Jewish?

Why don't you go to a normal church that doesn't have exorcisms?

What's this about you moving to Russia?

Fortunately, the last one was asked on MSN Messenger so I didn't have to suppress the laughter. We've all had them. Go on, share yours.

Depart, catechumens!

The rite itself (and I admit I've only read it in translation), is in need of a serious tidying-up. An example - why is that bit about "depart ye catechumens" still there, when at that point, not only does nobody leave but (as I've heard said) it would be regarded as odd if anybody did?

The above was a genuine question from somebody elsewhere regarding the Liturgy. I must hastily add that it was not an attack. The person who asked has a great fondness for Orthodoxy and thoroughly enjoys the Liturgy, and the above was in the context of a series of questions and discussions about the Liturgy.

The comment struck me as odd though, in that I had heard of this part of the Liturgy before I began exploring Orthodoxy and had never heard that it isn't actually performed, and certainly, as a catechumen, I have been made to know in no uncertain terms that I am to leave at this point and to return during the Litany of Thanksgiving.

The week after reading this, there was no Liturgy at my own church and so I went to an Antiochian parish. I responded to the dismissal of the catechumens by moving to the back of the building and reading some of the material at the back and conversing quietly with the doorkeeper, who was also the priest's wife. She explained that they usually wouldn't expect catechumens to leave at that point. I returned after communion.

So my questions are as follows: is the dismissal of catechumens seen mostly as a remnant of a bygone era nowadays, with only some churches actually observing it, or is it still largely observed with only some churches being slightly more relaxed about it? Also, is the variation from parish to parish or is it determined by the jurisdiction?

Many thanks.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Save St Seraphim's

Here follows an article from
Orthodox News about the situation with St Seraphim's, reproduced here by kind permission of Fr Andrew Bond.


In 2006 St Seraphim's will celebrate a Ruby Jubilee, the 40th anniversary of its foundation. In 1996 Deacon Mark Meyrick was ordained to the priesthood in London by Archbishop Nikodem. The newly-ordained Fr Mark settled in Little Walsingham, Norfolk, where he had secured premises to establish an Orthodox presence. The only building available that he could afford to rent was the derelict railway station.

Fr Mark was supported by a group of friends who formed the Brotherhood of St Seraphim. In the first instance this was not intended to be a monastic community as such, although Fr Mark did subsequently accept the monastic tonsure and thus is better known to most of you as Archimandrite David.


The former station was rapidly transformed into a church centre. The old ticket office was gutted and transformed into a church. Residential buildings were constructed on the old station platform. The brotherhood established an ikon studio and this provided a substantial part of their income.

St Seraphim's serves pilgrims to Walsingham and, over the years, many people have had their first encounter with the Orthodox Church through visiting St Seraphim's, including me.


Many of you may not realise that Norfolk County Council still owns the property. They had taken it over after the railway line was closed by Dr Beeching. The current lease expired on 1 September this year. The rent had been £2100 per annum but the council is asking £9000 per annum for the new lease - a staggering increase. In the past the council always refused to sell the former station property on the basis of their proposal to use the line of the old railway track as a new Falkenham to Wells road. In forty years this plan has failed to materialise and, most likely, never will. Indeed now, for the first time, the council has agreed that the sale of the property is an option. And the price? Well, they have not given us an exact price but a recent letter from the county council says a figure "substantially in excess of £120 000".


It might sound a bit flippant to say whatever God wills, but, whatever it is, we have got to do it. Who are we? Clearly, all who owe a debt to Fr David, all who love St Seraphim of Sarov, indeed, all who value the witness of St Seraphim's church.

St George Orthodox Information Service and St Seraphim's Brotherhood share the same founder. We, SGOIS, therefore, feel it is incumbent upon us to do everything in our power to secure the future of St Seraphim's as Fr David's memorial.

St Seraphim's is a pilgrim's church. It was never intended to be a parish. When a congregation began to assemble in Walsingham, Fr David encouraged the establishment of a parish as a separate entity. This is why the Transfiguration parish in Great Walsingham came into being. But it does mean that St Seraphim's doesn't have parishioners. All of us, who love and support St Seraphim's, have other parish allegiances and this can look like the problem of divided loyalties, but it should not. Caring for St Seraphim's is complimentary to all our other responsibilities.


Walsingham is a world famous place of pilgrimage. In May, the Eastern Daily Press reported that the Roman Catholic Church is building a new church (Annunciation) in Friday Market Place, Little Walsingham, at a cost of £1.2million. In August the EDP reported on a plan by the Anglican shrine to develop their facilities for visitors at a cost of £2million.

In comparison, our financial needs look trivial, but only in comparison! However, we must not underestimate the importance of St Seraphim's for the witness of Orthodoxy as a whole. Dare we allow St Seraphim's to close? It is one of the few Orthodox churches in this country to be open for visitors every day. Also, Walsingham attracts thousands of pilgrims, many of whom visit St Seraphim's to pray. For many, this is their first ever visit to an Orthodox church. We cannot afford to lose it.


Clearly we will keep everyone informed of all developments through Orthodox News. Buying the property is the only viable option.

A category has been added to out order form to enable you, of your kindness, to add an extra bit which we will pass on to St Seraphim's for the fund. Over the past year or so, we have been collecting books for a secondhand booklist. The first edition of this list is now ready and is available on request. All the proceeds will go to St Seraphim's. There are still a few of the St Seraphim's mugs (commemorating the centenary of his glorification) available (22 to be precise) and we will sell these at £5 each for the fund.

A new series of postcards of St Seraphim's is being planned. These will be views of the interior and exterior of the church, and possibly the large ikon cross which is made of slate. Fr David's All Saints ikon is another card we plan to publish after Christmas.

Many of us might wish to contribute more than we can personally afford So, how can this be done? Well, you might sell your unwanted items in a boot sale, organise a fund-raising dinner, organise a raffle, or persuade your parish priest to take up a retiring collection. If you have items you no longer want, antiques, a picture, furniture or whatever, send it to your local auction rooms and send us the proceeds. Some smaller items, books, jewellery, etc. could be sent to us and we will sell them for the best price we can get. Then there is that hackneyed old favourite - sponsorship. I would be prepared to set the ball rolling. Those of you who know me will understand the significance of this suggestion. For sufficient sponsorship, I would be prepared to have a haircut, the firt in more than ten years. Any offers?

SGOIS will do everything possible to secure the future of St Seraphim's. If the plan fails, the property could be sold to a developer. The bulldozers would then move in very quickly. Can we allow this to happen? The honour of the Orthodox Church is at stake here because the church will not be destroyed by an enemy from outside, but by our own lack of care.

One last thing; we can call on St Seraphim for help. SGOIS is preparing to print the text of the Akathist hymn to St Seraphim. This will be available from us and from St Seraphim's at a modest cost. Please use it regularly.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Our Lady of Walsingham

Joy to thee, Queen, within thine ancient dowry -

joy to thee, Queen, for once again thy fame
is noised abroad and spoken of in England
and thy lost children call upon thy name.
Ladye of Walsingham, be as thou hast been -
England's Protectress, our Mother and our Queen!

In ages past, thy palmer-children sought thee
from near and far, a faith-enlightened throng,
bringing their gems, and gold and silver love-gifts
where tapers gleamed, where all was prayer and song.
Ladye of Walsingham, be as thou hast been -
England's Protectress, our Mother and our Queen!

Countless the signs and wonders that men told there,
for not in vain did any pilgrim kneel
before thy throne to seek thy intercession
but thou didst bend to listen and to heal.
Ladye of Walsingham, be as thou hast been -
England's Protectress, our Mother and our Queen!

The Martyrs' blood, like heavenly seed, is scattered;
the harvest now is ripe for us to reap;
the Faith dishonoured now is held in honour;
O help thine own this precious gift to keep!
Ladye of Walsingham, be as thou hast been -
England's Protectress, our Mother and our Queen!

Unto thy Son - unto our sweet Redeemer,
Source of our Hope, our Life, our Joy, once more
we bring the love and loyalty of England
and in his Sacrament we him adore.
Ladye of Walsingham, be as thou hast been -
England's Protectress, our Mother and our Queen!

The 15th of October (which falls on Gregorian 28th of October) is the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. I have never been to Walsingham and would very much like to go. I've been told to avoid the "grand national" pilgrimage as it turns into Lourdes in summer (which is something I hope to never have to go through again). I should perhaps arrange to stay there at some point during the coming winter months.

The hymn above was the final hymn at the Mass at York Minster, which concluded last year's "Magnificat" festival, during which a statue of OLW went on tour throughout the land. It appeared in the Mass booklet without acknowledgement and so it is reproduced here. The title of the post includes a link to the tune.

At this time we need to pray all the more fervently for Our Lady's prayers and protection, as we are in danger of losing the Orthodox Chapel at Walsingham. I don't have the full story but I gather that developers are involved and the chapel is on the site that they wish to build on. I have been unable to get in touch with the priest who is taking care of the appeal but as soon as I have more information, I shall post it here. Please pray.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wiccan friend

Do as you wish but harm none

This is something that I posted elsewhere recently as part of a wider conversation but I thought that it would be worth saying here as thinking about it has made me grateful for the good friends that I have.

I have recently been thinking about the fact that I have little in common with many of my friends. I have little interest in pop music and probably wouldn't recognise any of the names in the top ten in the charts if someone were to list them. My religious beliefs feature prominently in my life andm while I don't make a point of talking about it, I also don't make a point of avoiding the issue. I enjoy classical music, Monty Python and anything that jokingly but not maliciously mocks organised religion. I also tend to avoid alcopops as I much prefer Bombay Sapphire.

I really don't know why many of my friends are friends, and have realised that many of them are actually counselling clients as opposed to friends. I hear from them when there's something wrong and not at any other time. I'm content with the nature of the relationships I have with them.

That aside, I have just as little in common with my best friend as I do with these aforementioned clients. In fact, we're very, very different people. He adores alcopops (and vodka, but the good stuff upsets his stomach so it has to be cheap). He is for ever downloading the latest music, he is available on more than one R18-rated DVD (without going into further detail), he's perhaps more promiscuous than any person should be (he knows about my disapproval but we don't make an issue of it), and he's Wiccan.

However, he's one of the most, loving, caring individuals I know. I realised that the thing that causes us to get on so well is similarities between our spiritualities. While Orthodoxy and Wicca are very different in terms of belief, they have some things in common with regard to the expression of those beliefs. He and I both have a sense of the immanent sacred, of the sanctity and essential goodness of the physical world and the ability to sense a deeper reality through elements of the created order. We both have a deep awareness of a realm other than that in which we have our being and the specialness of the meeting of the two. In terms of spirituality, I perhaps have more in common with him than I do with many other christians, especially those of an Evangelical disposition.

I have been in the custom of having a Mass of Requiem offered on or near my mum's anniversary each year, and last year I forgot. I didn't realise it was her anniversary until that evening, and I happened to be chatting to my friend on MSN at the time. When I mentioned it, he got a candle out and lit it, and placed it on his window-sill. This was born out of his belief that the spirits of the dead are on their journey to their final state and we can help to guide them along their way. The light of the candle was his contribution to this. This nmeant so very much to me.

I have a lot of time for Wiccans, for even though I think that the majority of Wicca is very misguided, I think that there is some of the Truth to be found there, though nowhere near in its fullness. What I do love though is the absence of all pretence - what you see is what you get. I can respect this.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Westminster Missal

A Shameless last-minute plug.

Monday, September 19, 2005


I discovered this yesterday while googling for information about the Feast of the Miracle of St Michael at Colossai, which falls today. What a good idea!

I have sent icons to all of the Michaels whose e-mail addresses I have and thought that I would share the link here.

Catechumenate - part the second

"Who like the Lord?", thunders Michael the Chief!

Well, I've been "done". I felt a mix of many emotions, from fear, inadequacy and uncertainty to joy and wrmth and love. It really was amazing. My sponsor, Dimitri, has recently completed an icon-writing course and the above is his first icon, which happened to be of the Holy Archangel Michael. I'm sure God interevened here.

He gave it to me. I was really touched by the fact that he was willing to part with his first ever, and it is such a beautiful thing. I venerated it there and then before receiving it. I'm so pleased.

It turns out we didn't spit in the end, but when we turned west we realised that the faithful had all moved aside, leaving a gap "just in case", which I found rather amusing.

I also took a friend along. He had never been to an Orthodox Liturgy before and I think was rather transported by the whole thing to another level. Let's see what becomes of the seed that this may have planted.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Caption time!

Cinderella's ugly step-sister (front right) storms off in disgust, having missed the bouquet.

I'm sorry, but this was just asking to be done. Feel free to post your captions.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


We have seen the True Light; we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the True Faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us.

Blessed be God!

I am to be made a catechumen on the 18th of September, Deo volente, and, if all goes well, baptised and chrismated between Theophany and Pascha next year.

I ask your prayers.

Communion - Orthodoxy and Rome: Part the Second

The Eastern Churches that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church celebrate the Eucharist with great love. 'These Churches, although separated from us, yet possess true sacraments, above all - by apostolic succession - the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy.' A certain communion "in sacris", and so in the Eucharist, 'given suitable circumstances and the approval by Church authority, is not merely possible but is encouraged.' - the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Has anybody actually come across any incidences of this. I know that Rome makes exceptions to "closed" communion in certain circumstances. The Anglican wife of a RC deacon of my acquaintance was permitted to receive at his ordination, and I know that, at funerals or other times of 'sorrow and joy', this can be waived with the necessary permission.

I also know that Rome and Orthodoxy have different concepts of what the Church is and where its boundaries lie, and so while the RC bishop may permit his priests to communicate Orthodox faithful, the latter are very unlikely to receive permission from their bishop to receive at a RC mass, (especially in ROCOR, with the anathema against ecumenism, which Metropolitan Vitaly describes as ' the most pernicious of heresies, for it has gathered all the heresies that exist or have existed, and has called this union a church - a deed that savours of antichrist.')

Still, does anybody know of any cases where an Orthodox bishop has permitted this? I would be interested to know. Many thanks.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Hagia Sophia

O God, who hast said "My house shall be called a house of prayer", vouchsafe to cleanse and hallow this house, which hath been polluted and defiled by the abominations of the heathen; so that thou mayest mercifully hear and graciously perform the prayers and vows of them that call upon thee in this place; Through Jesus Christ thy only Son our Lord, Who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, ever one God, now and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Holy New Martyr, Grand Duchess Elisabeth

Come, all ye that love Christ,
and let us offer up a hymn of praise
unto the martyred nun Elisabeth,

who was chosen by the Lord of hosts
to serve as an example of Christian piety and love
for those who desire to follow in his steps.
For, spurning the vanity of worldly possessions, ranks and cares,
she dedicated her whole life to the aid of those in need.
Wherefore, it hath pleased Christ our God
to crown her ascetic labours

with the diadem of martyrdom;
and, dwelling now in his heavenly kingdom,
she maketh supplication to God,
that He deliver from misfortune and peril
all who chant unto her with joy:

"Rejoice, O venerable martyr Elisabeth,
true model of Christian Sacrifice!"


Metropolitan Anthony

A friend bought me this book a few weeks back, and I have started to read it this week. I haven't done much reading in recent years, but I have got into the practice of taking a book to work with me to read on the bus.

This is a window into the life and heart of a wonderful man, of whom, to my shame, I had never heard of until it was bought for me. It's one of those books that makes me sad that he died before I heard of him. I am only as far as the fifth chapter, but I have gained such insight into the personal effects that the atrocities of the 20th century had on individual families.

I look forward to reading and posting more. Does anybody have any experiences of him that they would like to share? I'd love to learn more about him.

The dullest blog in the world

I just had to share this. Enjoy.

Friday, August 12, 2005


Do you ever find yourself staring aimlessly into your fridge? If so, remember this:

You may find butter in your fridge.
You may find cheese in your fridge.
You may find vegetables in your fridge.

But you will not find answers in your fridge.

Instead, thank your fridge for the gift of coolness.

Monday, August 08, 2005

O confess unto the Lord, for He is gracious: and his mercy endureth for ever!

I've been thinking about this a fair bit, and have been very Anglican in my approach to individual Sacramental Confession: all may, some should, none must.

However, I'm not so sure now. All that aside, it won't be an issue when I eventually make the jump, as corporate absolution is not practised.

The reason for this post is just really to get an idea of different people's methods of preparing themselves for Confession. Are there any psalms, prayers or portions of Scripture that you find useful? If you feel you can share, I would like that very much.

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ave! Panis Angelorum

Hail, for evermore! Thou most holy Flesh of Christ!
Unto me, before all things and above all things, the highest sweetness.
The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ be unto me, a sinner, the Way and the Life;
in the name of the + Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Hail, for evermore! Thou heavenly Drink!
Unto me before all things and above all things the highest sweetness.
The Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ be profitable unto me, a sinner,
and an eternal remedy unto everlasting life;
in the name of the + Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

These are my Communion devotions, said before receving the Blessed Sacrament. They are from the priest's prayers before Communion in the Sarum Missal, but I find them extremely helpful, as the language instills a sense of reverence and awe. Most Sundays see me trying to keep the servers and clergy in tow, as well as singing, and so it is good to have a few moments to be able to focus before receiving. I have used these prayers for about a year now, and have been nourished by them. I thought that I would share them here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Lo! from the north we come - from east and west and south.

I've been thinking about the internet and use of it. Through my own musings and some contact with others recently, I have begun to think that being so open about things (although there are many things that I do not post that I could, as they are within the realm of this blog, but I would prefer not to), may well be a little more detrimental to relationships an my wellbeing than is ideal.

I know that this post in itself is a little ironic, but I felt it worth seeking people's thoughts about this. You see, I don't really have people nearby with whom I can speak about the things that I share here and on discussion forums. It could be considered rather sad, but the interaction that I have here is the most support I regularly get, and will be until I am able to go to and from my new church with more regularity. I can share my thoughts and feelings here, and can discuss doctrinal issues here and elsewhere. I don't think that I have come to rely on the contact here as a substitute for real life conversation, but it serves as a very useful and helpful source of information and support. That said, I'm not sure it's entirely a good idea to keep on.

Too many people saw a recent post of mine as a personal attack on them, which was unfortunate, but this is the sort of thing that I don't want to happen again.

Monday, July 25, 2005

My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink

In the light of the preceding post, many thanks to Huw for linking me to this. The timing was impeccable.

I see here what it is to which I am drawn.

Grant this, O Lord!

People, look east - the time is near!

I can't do it anymore. I can't kneel there week by week, at odds theologically with my church, not knowing whether what is coming towards me is, in fact, the Body and Blood of Christ, or just a bit of bread and the fermented juice of the grape, good and wholesome. I can't kneel there, not wanting to adore it in case it is just bread, but I cannot ignore it, in case it is my Lord and my God.

I do not see that I have to make a smooth transition from one church to another, and consequently, whatever happens in regard to a timescale for being received as a catechumen, I cannot continue regularly worshipping in an Anglican setting - I cannot.

I spoke with a few people at church yesterday and I hope to do the same again next Sunday. I shall perhaps make the 14th of August my final Sunday.

On the day, and for the weeks following, I shall perhaps feel a great sadness, but for now, I feel a great relief, and with time, I am sure that the sorrow shall give way to happiness and joy in what I have found.

Places of pilgrimage

Fr Michael over at the Ely Forum kindly mentioned some holy places in Britain, associated with the lives of the Saints. Does anybody know of any such places in the North-west of England, which are associated with Saints of the pre-schism era, and to which a small pilgrimage of a few people may be made? It would be very good to know, as, at some point, I would like to arrange a trip to such a place, even if there is no permanent shrine.

Many thanks.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


By their fruits ye shall know them - beware!
And some bishops, I grieve to declare,
have permitted to preach
four pineapples, a peach,
three bananas, two grapes and a pear! - Leetle M

I have been hesitant to post about this for various reasons.

Firstly, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Until fairly recently, I had long been a supporter of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate. I have read around and studied this - it was even my topic of choice for one of my modules in 'A'-level Christian Theology. (Mine was the last year to be able to do Christian Theology before it was abolished and the national curriculum went down the "Religious Studies" route). In all of my study, I found little objection to the ordination of women.

In recent months, however, my own personal study has begun to lead me down a different path, but that isn't totally relevant. The reason that I say this is that I acknowledge an authority greater than my own mind. I refuse to be unthinking about such matters, but at the same time, I refuse to have the arrogance to believe that my tiny little mind can somehow overthrow the Truth that God has revealed to his Church and that the Saints have believed and practised for 2000 years before I came to be. The Church, in accordance with Holy Tradition, teaches that this cannot happen, and I accept this, for to accept the Truth of God, and to live in that Truth, is what it is to be Christian. I can do no other.

The second reason that I have not posted about this sooner is that, as somebody drawing nearer and nearer to leaving Anglicanism behind, I am not sure that this is my fight anymore. Part of me is sad that the church that has nourished my faith for 22 years is taking this path, but then another part of me wonders whether this is of any consequence in light of the same church's laxity about other aspects of the Faith. In my first post on this blog, I expressed my inability to accept the sort of approach to Christianity that embraces and affirms mutually exclusive "truths", and this is what I see in the Church of England - the Real Presence, the Apostolic Succession, the Resurrection - these are all aspects of the Faith which I believe ought to be taken as given, but there are open dissenters in the CofE whose positions are affirmed as equally valid to the understanding of them handed down to us through Tradition. How can this be? In light of Christ's promise to send the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us into all Truth, how can the CofE support this heresy? (For that is what it is!)

An all-embracing, false "liberalism" is masquerading as the Christian Faith! That the word Catholic means universal is batted about, with clearly no understanding of the actual meaning of the word. Yes, it means universal, but that is not an indiscriminate universality, in the sense of embracing as truth every whim that somebody has, in the belief that it is Spirit-led. No. Catholicism means just the opposite of that - it means universal as opposed to individualistic. Therefore is the ordination of women really that big a deal in light of everything else? Was the Church of England way beyond redemption before November of 1992?

As somebody who has most of his network somehow based in the Church of England, who has known nothing but Anglicanism as his own, it is extremely painful for me to answer yes to my question above, but in honesty, it is all that I can do.

It is only through reading Richard's recent post that I was moved to say something here, for I was very moved by what is clearly a very difficult time for him and others in a similar position. I can but pray, and I ask you to do the same.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Ely Forum

We have seen the true light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the True Faith, and we worship the Undivided Trinity; for the Trinity has saved us.

Fr Michael, of the St Petroc Monastery, linked me to this site this morning. in the light of the collapse of the York Forum, this has been set up, but with a slightly different slant - specifically Orthodox.

All discussion there has been well mannered and in good cheer thus far. It would be good to see the membership grow.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London terrorist attacks

Lord, have mercy!

My feelings are a mix of anger, fear, upset, and I don't know what else.

What's wrong with these people? May God have mercy on them because I'm having a lot of difficulty right now.

May those who have been hurt find healing and comfort and may the souls of the departed, through the mercy of God + rest in peace.

O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom; defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies, that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

29th June

Thou art a priest for ever of the order of Melchisedech

Here is a photograph from last Wednesday. It was the feast of Ss Peter and Paul in the CofE Kalendar, and was celebrated with a High Mass. It also happened to be the 25th anniversary of Ordination of a good friend of mine to the Sacred Priesthood.

I was the liturgical subdeacon, and am pictured to the Celebrant's left. (The beard was experimental and has since been removed). The chap in the cope is my parish priest, and the chap on the far right in the photograph was the clerk, and is a friend of mine who was visiting from S. Mary-the-Virgin, Primrose Hill, Percy Dearmer's establishment.

It was a wonderful and joyous Mass, with a devotion to Our Ladye as well, incorporating one of the hymns that I posted here some weeks back.

The fruit of the vine flowed freely afterwards as well, and a good time was had by all.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

More "Michael" time

I love my church. I went through a really difficult time last year and, after three months of not going anywhere after leaving my last church, and on some Sundays even subjecting myself to that great bastion of liturgical excellence that is Manchester Cathedral (HA!), I settled at my current church. They have been warm, loving, welcoming and open to having me and my oddities there.

The church is the higher side of middle, but only just, but they are open to smoke on Principal Feasts, prayers to the Saints and for the departed, pricket stands and the use of icons. These have been recently introduced through the efforts of the new rector, one of the assitant priests and me, and it works well.

However, I find my journey towards Orthodoxy hindered by my responsibilities there, in that the most recent trips to my Orthodox church have had to be cancelled because of things going on at my Anglican church. My Orthodox priest has, perhaps wisely, informed me not to go burning any bridges yet, but it's so frustrating. I don't want to fall into the trap of being too academic about this journey by doing nothing but reading and discussing theology - I want to worship and engage in conversation and shared food and drink with other Orthodox Christians, and see the Faith lived. I feel deprived of that.

I have now decided that, so as to get my regular dose of Orthodoxy and not to grow to resent my Anglican church, I shall allow myself at least one Sunday a month where I will have no responsibilities at my Anglican church, and be free to travel.

This seems like the best way forward for now, although I know that my regular absence will raise questions, as I am the sacristan, only regular server and a chorister, as well as being on the PCC.

Does this sound sensible or am I moving too fast?

NUS and abortion

The National Union of Students has decided to launch a "Pro-Choice and Proud of it" campaign.

The NUS, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is an advocacy group of which most of the college and university students in Great Britain are members. It campaigns for better policies and benefits for students, and members receive discounts on all manner of services and leisure activities. I imagine that many of the members join mainly for the discount in stores and on cinema tickets and the like.

Now, this organisation has alienated many of its members by launching a campaign that promotes, among others, abortion as a valid and acceptable option to young women who find themselves in a situation where they are unready for a pregnancy.

I know of at least one member who has resigned his position on the local body and handed in his membership card in protest.

What on earth does a group like the NUS have to do with such an issue?

I find this approach to be underhanded, deceitful and unethical.

The NUS has its purposes and people have joined because they would like to benefit from them, but now the group has come to represent something that its members did not subscribe to at the time of joining. I hope that, unlike my friend, many of those opposed will stay and make it known that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

ROCOR & the MP

Here are the latest joint documents. I'm glad to see that progress is being made, and I pray for more.

S. Michael & All Saints, Edinburgh

Who is like the Lord?

Here is a Mystery Worshipper report that I submitted a few weeks back. It is the second that I have done, the first being about three years ago, back when I was a wishy-washy liberal. ;-)

Ian commented favourably on it in a comment in my birthday post (immediately preceding this one), and asked for clarification of British Catholicism.

I won't give a detailed history here, partly because that isn't the aim of my blog and also I am not qualified, but this is the basic story.

Before the unpleasantness of the 16th century, the western rite had many local variants - all very clearly having the same origins, but with local elements that developed for various reasons. The local Uses, as they came to be known, were often diocesan, originating at the cathedral, and followed to a lesser degree in churches and chapels in each diocese. Some examples of British Uses are those of Exeter, York, Bangor, Hereford, and most well-known, Sarum (Salisbury). Westminster Abbey also had its own use, and the Westminster Missal was recently reprinted by the Henry Bradshaw Society. The Sarum Rite, in one form or another, eventually spread to most of Wales, the English south, Scotland and Ireland, and it is this that formed the basis for the Prayer Book of 1549.

Along with differences in the texts of the Mass were differences in the manner of observing certain days, and the ceremonial as well. For example, on Palm Sunday, whereas a palmesel (wooden figure of Christ on a donkey, on castors) was carted around in northern Europe, in the Sarum rite, the Blessed Sacrament was carried in procession instead. This, to me, makes infinitely more sense.

Genuflexion, for example, never formed a part of the Catholicism of the British Isles. Somebody from the pre-reformation period walking into an Anglo-Catholic parish today would perhaps wonder what on earth these people, bobbing up and down on one knee, were doing. A profound bow (from the waist) was the form of reverence given to the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Also, the surplice was full because of the colder British climate, so that the furs could be worn beneath it. Only on the continent did this take the form of a much closer-fitting garment, now known as the cotta. Both are regional variants of the same garment.

Two lights were used on the altar and no more. Although there would have been four - one on each riddel post, and two standards on the pavement, there were only ever two on the altar itself, and not on a shelf (or gradine) behind it.

The processional order was Clerk (carrying cross), then taperers carrying their lights, then thurifer, and then the Sacred ministers, for it was the priest who was seen as the icon of Christ by virtue of his ordination, and so the way was lit and censed for him. On the continent, it was the Cross that was seen as the icon of Christ, and so the thurifer walked before the Cross to cense the way for it, and the lights were carried on either side of the Cross.

The Blessed Sacrament was reserved in a hanging pyx, suspended above the high altar, and not in a bird ca..., er... tabernacle on the altar.

When Queen Mary Tudor restored Catholicism to England, it would have been the Sarum rite that was used. In the late 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church did away with most of these regional variations in the Council of Trent as a reaction against the protestant reformation, and standardised everything in the form of the Tridentine Mass - a rite which did not develop naturally, but was imposed by council. The Church of England had already become established in the Prayer Book by this point, and as this had the rite of Sarum as its basis, it would make sense that Sarum ceremonial be used with it. This is the tradition that Blessed Percy Dearmer followed in defiance of the culture of many Anglo-Catholics and high churchmen of his day of rejecting anything not Roman as protestant.

There was, at the time, the idea that in order to be Catholic, it was necessary to follow the continental traditions, and so things like two lights on the altar, bowing to the Sacrament and not genuflecting, the use of the surplice, and other things that had been part of the Catholic tradition of Britain for centuries, were condemned as protestant by those who favoured more continental practices. This, of course, is total nonsense, but the fruits of such ideas are seen in many Anglo-Catholic churches today, where one could easily be forgiven for thinking that one were in Italy or Spain.

At my own church, we tend to be more Sarum then Roman, although we're the higher side of middle. S. Mary-the-Virgin, Primrose Hill is rather Sarum, which, I suppose, is Dr Dearmer's legacy. Holy Innocents' Fallowfield, in Manchester is also higher side of middle, and is more Sarum, although very low-key. There are a few parishes like that, and small traditions have lived on and jump out where you may least expect them.

The Sarum rite is also the rite used by the western rite Orthodox in ROCOR, and there is a link to the version of it that they use on the St Petroc Monastery website.

I apologise for the not-particularly-objective wording, but I really do feel strongly about this for, as I said in the report, this rejection of our own heritage is unhealthy, and seems to imply that the religion of our ancestors was inferior. I cannot accept this.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to

Well, no need to cry, and no party either, but I turn 22 today, and just felt like saying so.

Now, where's the gin?

(walks off, muttering to self).

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter

O sing unto the Lord a new song; let the congregation of saints praise him. Let Israel rejoice in him that made him, and let the children of Sion be joyful in their King. - Psalm 149: 1&2

This arrived in the post on Wednesday - a birthday present from a very good friend to whom I had mentioned a desire to have this in passing some weeks earlier.

It is an absolutely wonderful asset, which now enables me to sing the Office properly, and offers some translations to the Marian antiphons which are really easy on the ear. I enjoy metrical paraphrases to some degree, but a translation that fits the plainsong is far preferable.

I also love the fact that the Chapters and Nunc Dimittis antiphon from Compline have been provided. I feel somehow more complete now that I have this, and I am very grateful for it. It even has psalm 151!

I may even persuade my parish priest to use plainsong for Evensong one evening, as I have the organ accompaniment to the Sarum tones (courtesy of The St. Mary's Press, Wantage).

There are one or two things that stand out as a little odd, though. Firstly, in the introduction, we are told that 'These days, the pious will search far and wide' for The Plainsong Psalter and The Sarum Psalter of G H Palmer as though they are rare books. While it is true that the former has been out of print since 1960, the latter is, in fact, still in print. I bought a new copy from the sisters at Wantage last summer.

I can understand some of the collects and versicles and responses having been altered to refer to the state and the president instead of the Queen, as it is an American publication, but was the following really necessary?

From Evensong:

V/ Give peace in our time, O Lord.
R/ Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God.

has been changed to:

V/ Give peace in our time, O Lord.
R/ For it is thou Lord only that makest us dwell in safety.

I don't understand the reason for this change to one of the most emotive responses in this particular office.

That's the only thing that really bugs me, but as I prefer Vespers anyway, it won't be a problem. All in all, it's a fantastic publication, and I recommend it to anybody who is serious about singing the Office.


The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. - Genesis 1:12

Meet Felicity.

I have never owned a plant before. I don't even know what type of plant she is, but she's very pretty. I purchased her on Thursday from a vendor who was visiting my place of work to sell his wares. I forgot to water her until Friday night when I noticed that she was looking a little weary, but she seems to be revived now. It may seem a little sad, but I'm really pleased, and she looks really at home on top of my bookcase.

Felicity - my first plant.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


No, nothing quite as biblical as that, I'm afraid.

Has anybody seen the new film?

I've been told by one friend, an avid fan, that it is utter rubbish (not the word that he used) and by another good friend, also an avid fan, that it is fantastic.

I would rather like to see it, but would also prefer not to spend £4.50 for the privilege of wasting 2 hours of my life that I will never get back.

Do let me know what your thoughts are, as I plan to see it on Wednesday. Many thanks.

Baptism and the like

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. - Matthew 28: 19

I was standing in the kitchen earlier today, washing the dishes, and I got to thinking about Sacramental validity.

More seriously, I was thinking about my own Baptism.

I know that when (and I am now at the point where I think I can say when rather than if) the time comes, I shall have to be baptised, and I know that this will not be considered by the Church to be sub conditione.

I actually do not struggle too much with this, as I was "baptised" by a priest who, 21 years on, is still remembered in the parish for his innovative services and departure from authorised liturgy. I have no way of knowing that I was indeed baptised 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'.

My own Baptism got me to thinking a little more about the issue of Orthodox acceptance/non-acceptance of heterodox baptisms. I do not know what the official line is, although I know that different jurisdictions deal with different situations differently, some extending economy in some situations, and others baptising anything that draws breath and resembles a human being. ROCOR falls within the latter category, and this is the jurisdiction with which I have become involved. The following is where my own study has led me. I do not put this forward as Christian Truth, but just as the result of my musings.

The Roman Catholic Church and Church of England accept the filioque. This means that the very nature of the persons of the Trinity and their relationship to each other in these groups, is actually different from the Orthodox understanding of the same. In the Orthodox understanding, the first Person of the Trinity is generative: in the RC/CE underatanding, He shares this generative nature with the second Person. It therefore follows that in the Orthodox understanding, the second Person of the Trinity is not generative in the same way that the Father is: the opposite is true in the RC/CE understanding. Finally, the Orthodox understand the third Person to be in procession from the first Person alone, through the second Person: the RC/CE position is that the third Person is in procession from both the first and second Persons.

It is, therefore, arguable that, Creator-Redeemer-Sanctifier quasi-baptisms aside, even if an Anglican priest baptises 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit', in my understanding, he is not referring to the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit that the Orthodox understand Christ to have commanded us to baptise in the name of. The identity of each of the Persons and his relationship to the others - the very identity of God - is distorted. Even if the priest baptises with the intention required by RCs, "to do as the Church does in Baptism, (whatever that may be)", his understanding of what is the Church is not the same as the Orthodox understanding of the same. If Orthdoxy holds that right Faith must be present in order for the Sacraments/Mysteries to be effectual, then does the deficient understanding of the nature of the Holy Trinity render RC and Anglican baptisms ineffectual where otherwise they would be?

Just some thoughts.