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!