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.

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.