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.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Debrett's Correct Form

This is one of those books that I saw and rather fancied over a year ago and intended to buy for myself, but kept forgetting. Each time I remembered, something else came up or I procrastinated. Does anybody else do that: see something you want but then keep forgetting to get it for yourself?

Well, I'm pleased, as the updated edition was published in October and a friend has just bought it for me for Christmass. Apart from being an invaluable tool - just how I have managed thus far without it is beyond me - it will look rather good on my desk beside my dictionaries of various languages, my thesaurus, The Oxford Guide to Style and the publications by the Fowler brothers.

I do enjoy my books. It seems that my godfather knows this all too well as his Christmass present to me was a very generous collection of book tokens. :-)

What fun!

It was on a starry night,
when the hills were bright,
earth lay sleeping - sleeping calm and still;
when in a cattle-shed,
in a manger-bed,
a boy was born: King of all the world!
And all the Angels sang for him,
the bells of heaven rang for him,
for a boy was born: King of all world!

It was my day off work on Thursday and I was getting the last of my Christmass shopping in at Manchester city centre. I had got completely fed of of all the hustle and bustle, the crowds, the pushing and shoving, the queueing for the better part of an hour for a bus and the whole atmosphere. Then I finally got the bus home and sat diagonally opposite from two girls who were with their father. They couldn't have been much older then 4 or 5 years old, and, completely oblivious to the stress that many of us impose upon ourselves at this time of year, they were gleefully singing the Christmass carol, It was on a starry night.

O, the innocence of childhood!

It was unbelievably moving and put the whole thing back into context for me. I got home and, as I tried to explain what had happened, I just burst into tears. My housemate came over to comfort me until I managed to get out just enough words to explain that these were happy tears.

I think we, as a society and especially as Christians, can learn much from our children. They aren't sullied by all of the nonsense that we are. God bless them.

Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mission (Is the Western Rite a catalyst?)

St Augustine of Canterbury, by Aidan Hart

Below is an amended form of an something that I wrote very passionately in the course of correspondence with my godfather. Uponn re-reading what I wrote, I felt that it is something that I would like to convey more widely, and so I proffer this, the ranting of merely one person. If you're from my locale and you're moved by this in any way, then please do get in touch.

Here is the excerpt from our exchange:

I must admit that my primary purposes in supporting the restoration of the Western Rite are twofold:
a) to bring people to the Truth of Orthodoxy who would otherwise have found the transition difficult.
b) to enable the Liturgy and traditions of the Holy Orthodox Tradition of this place, which nourished the Saints before us, to be restored to its proper place in these western lands.

What Father Michael, all those involved with the Western Rite, and I decidedly do not do is to try to persuade our Orthodox brethren of the Eastern tradition to take part in the Western Rite. The reason for this is that there is simply no need. The Eastern Rite is a beautiful, noble and worthy tradition which I love dearly and which has nourished the faith of millions of Orthodox faithful throughout the centuries, through many tasking times, producing many Saints in the process, who are venerated throughout the Church today. Long may it continue! For people who are settled in the Eastern Rite and who have been brought up in it, they have a wonderful channel through which they can work out their salvation in Christ and there is no need at all for that to be disturbed.

The people who need to be made aware of the Western Rite are those who have a love for Orthodoxy, who have explored the Orthodox Faith and its Holy Tradition and would love to be Orthodox but find the ethnic image that Orthodoxy has to be a serious barrier: non-English or only partially-English services; styles of vestments, hymns and services that have been imported from Greece or Russia at the expense of Orthodox vestments, hymns and service that are indigenous to Britain and Western Europe; after-service meals that are exclusively made up of foods from "the old country" (the old country varying from parish to parish, of course), and where nobody speaks English. I have read of American converts to Orthodoxy, with white faces, blond hair and blue eyes, being denied communion in Orthodox churches because the priest refused to believe that they were Orthodox, because of course as everybody knows, Orthodoxy is for Russians, Eastern Europeans and Greeks.

To many people, (and it has been said to me on Ship of Fools and elsewhere), this seems to fly in the face of the Orthodox claim to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, for they rightly ask how it can be catholic (universal) if being part of it means denying the liturgical and spiritual Christian heritage of the West which has given us many Saints as well. Many see Orthodox churches as little tastes of Russia, Serbia or Greece in Britain, and while they may find it all very exotic and fascinating, they do not even consider it as a church that they would want to make their own.

I have put an open invitation on Ship of Fools for people to come to church with me at Nativity if they wish, assuring them that they would be taken care of. One person replied thus:

I don't have next year's diary with me, but I'm free that weekend, I think. I would be quite interested in attending an Orthodox service - it's something I've always wanted to do, but it always seems a little off-putting - having a friendly guide would be wonderful.

Why should an Orthodox service be off-putting? Why should somebody who has wanted to come to an Orthodox service for years find the idea daunting?

Now before I give you the wrong impression, let me make clear what I am not saying. I am not saying that there should be no Eastern Rite in Britain. Britain has a wonderfully rich and diverse cultural composition. Many people from Orthodox lands in the East have migrated here, and it is right and proper that they should bring their spiritual and liturgical customs with them. I thank God that such people, many of whom fled to Britain under the most appalling of circumstances in their homelands, have been given the opportunity to worship God in the way that has fed their spiritual tradition for centuries. I am also grateful that we, in Britain, have benefited from this by once again being exposed to the Orthodox Faith as a result of such migration. I was reading Metropolitan Anthony Bloom's biography, and learning how many Russians lived in atrocious conditions in ghettos in places like Paris and London, and where the church was their refuge. Their homes, livelihoods, families and dignity had been robbed of them and the church was the one place where they could gather as Russians and worship God as Russians. What a loving mother the Church is!

However, the Church does not stop there. Orthodoxy in Britain cannot be content to see itself as a ministry to Russian exiles in Manchester, or as a cultural focal point for Greeks in Salford. For that would be to ignore Christ's command to go into the world, making disciples of all the nations.

As Orthodox Christians, we have a missionary role for, as we sing in the Creed, we believe in the Apostolic Church - called to be apostles (messengers) of the Truth of Christ. We have the ability, dare I say the obligation, to continue the fullness of the riches of our Holy Orthodox Tradition in its entirety - both East and West - which we have inherited from the Saints before us, for we believe in the Catholic Church. As Orthodox Christians, we should harbour no "East good: West bad" mentality, for we believe in the One Church, recognising the diversity of Orthodox worship while holding to the unity of the Orthodox Faith, while shunning such strange ideas as ecumenism based on the branch theory. And finally, as Orthodox Christians, we must use our Oneness, Catholicity and Apostolicity for the purpose of holiness, for we believe in the Holy Church, called to bring all to Christ in his One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, for the sanctification and salvation of their souls and bodies, as well as our own.

That may sound very inspiring in theory, but what does it mean at its basic level? What does it mean "on the ground"?

For me, it means that the fullness of the Orthodox Tradition has to be celebrated as a good and holy thing in both its Eastern and Western expressions to bring the Truth of our Lord and Christ to as many people as possible. It means that an English person who wants to explore Orthodoxy must not feel frightened to enter an Orthodox church because it seems too exotic and foreign to him. It means that western people who do feel comfortable embracing Orthodoxy as their own faith must no longer be the exception, but rather the norm. It means the free use of a truly Orthodox (for nothing less will do) Liturgy, spirituality and ethos that will be accessible to the people of Britain, being part of their culture and heritage.

Gone are the days when Saints in their droves walked these lands and lived the Orthodox Faith. Apart from some pockets left in certain parts of other churches, by and large, gone is the once widespread spirituality which was worked for by such Saints as Aidan and Colman of Lindisfarne, Bertelin of Staffordshire, Werburgh of Chester and the whole host of the Saints of the British Isles. And it will not do for us to simply bemoan this loss and do nothing to remedy it, hoping that people will jump over ethnic, cultural, and liturgical hurdles in order to become Orthodox. We in Britain are in a missionary situation and we need to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and for strength to do our part in bringing the Faith to others.

Advent IV

Tomorrow's homily from the St Petroc Monastery:


We are now in the last leg of our examination of our lives and resultant repentance during this Advent. Soon we will be celebrating the birth in the cave-house on the road to Bethlehem of God’s Christ and our Saviour, his taking of human form and human nature together with His eternal Divine nature, and His Coming to us here in earth.

As a preparation for that, we have observed the fasting and repentance that is appropriate to the Second Coming of Christ to this earth. During this Advent, we have been more overtly doing what every Orthodox Believer should do all the time: Acting as if the Second Coming of Christ was tomorrow morning. It is very difficult for the busy work-a-day person to keep the mind focused on the Second Coming, one’s own unreadiness to be judged and general unworthiness. The Church however provides for two annual extra-serious seasons of reflection and ready-making: The Advent Lent before the
wo annual extra-serious
seasons of reflection and ready-making: The Advent Lent before the Nativity and the Great Lent before the Resurrection.

This Sunday, we pray that justice may be found for the many poor of countries around the world, and that those countries, classes and individuals who enjoy real prosperity will turn and follow our Lord’s admonitions to assist those who are left behind. We should keep in our prayers all those who labour in the poorest areas of the world to bring spiritual and material food and comfort to the many forgotten poor. We pray for the bewildered refugees of Africa. We are supposed to keep our own offences and failings constantly in the forefront of our minds at this penitential season. We must also keep a realistic picture of the vast number of medically, physically and spiritually needy and, using that picture in our minds, we must take intercessory and financial action for we must not keep the gifts of God to ourselves.

The struggle to achieve perfect personal holiness and the struggle to provide for all of the world’s poor and needy are very similar in many respects. We shall probably never achieve personal holiness perfection and we shall probably never provide for every person on this earth. The important thing in both cases is that we put our best effort into the attempt. It is the struggle towards holiness that is the purifying fire. Without God’s help neither goal is possible of achievement. The trouble is, that no matter how often this is repeated by and to us, we never quite manage to shake off our worldly “old man” and we persist at least in part, in trying to achieve the goal from our own resources.

On the personal level this leads to all sorts of failures and problems. On the world level, we continue to believe that this or that form of human government might, if it was done properly, achieve the perfect world - or at least feed a lot of the worst cases. The fact is that it is not possible for so long as humans insist on governing themselves. We personally, and corporately must give the government of ourselves and our world over to God. Unless we do that, we will persist in wading painfully in the mire of our own making. Christ came to tell us of His Way. He made the whole painful and humiliating journey from human birth to human execution for us, that we would see the Way.

Let us reflect on sorrow and prepare for joy.

Advent III

I apologise for my absence over the past couple of weeks. I haven't been online much at all as I'm still settling into my new routine with work and what have you. still, here I am. To all those who have contacted me privately, I will respond to you. Please do be patient. I'm sorry for my delay.

Here is the homily from the St Petroc Monastery for last Sunday:


The signs of Christ’s presence with his Church are shown by the Scriptures set down for the Liturgy today as a continuation of the Truth brought forward in last Sundays’ Scriptures: that the Kingdom of God is close at hand.

John’s question to Christ from prison at first seems puzzling since we know that he has already announced Christ. Why then the question? Was Saint John having doubts? That he was not perfect and did not possess perfect knowledge is not in question. What we see here however is a rhetorical question, asked for the sake of his disciples. While John had received the revelation of Jesus the Christ, there was no outward sign of the magnificent Judge with power inherent to the Jewish expectation of the Messiah. Perhaps he was puzzled by the mercy instead of judgement. Where was the fulfilment of the well-known prophecies? The question given by John to his disciples is designed therefore to allow them to elicit the truth about Jesus for themselves. His time was over, he had gone ahead of the Messiah, it was time to hand over his disciples to that Messiah. These disciples were “family”: They were already in a sense “believers” in that they
followed Saint Jon precisely because he was the Forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus did not answer with a direct claim, or stage a transfiguration for their benefit, but said in effect: “The evidence is all around you, you judge”, having, in their presence done a large number of miracles that might not be expected even of a great prophet.

Here was the healing King, the One who would call us to healed unity of belief in him. We hear that healing call today and it it is a call towards unity of the People of God, those Called Out to believe rightly in God and His Christ. The confusing thing is that there are numerous “uncertain trumpets” calling us towards forms of unity. The only unity can be that which is based on right belief. That is, there can be no compromise of that which is genuinely Apostolic Tradition (including the Holy Scripture). Such unity cannot be in “submission” to any one leader or based on any false or convenient reading of Scripture. The only submission involved in the unity of all Christians is that of all to Christ in the right belief in Him. This would be a true healing, and this is the healing that Christ will require of us if we are to truly be His Called Out people.

This time of Advent, when the Church looks towards the Second Coming of Christ, is a good time to think in terms of the healing of His people here in earth, for it is a vital part of our preparation for His Coming. Not only must we bewail our many-fold individual sins and wickednesses, but we must repent our corporate sins and wickednesses, foremost among which is the diversion from the right belief of so much of Christ’s Kingdom. We desperately need peace on earth
and goodwill among Christ’s people. Not a false peace based on satanic formulae of papered over differences and ingorance of the explicit statements of Scripture, but a right peace and a universal right belief.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Advent II

Here is today's homily from the St Petroc Monastery.


As we thought about Advent last Sunday, we saw that this is a period of radical re-thinking of our way of spiritual and moral living and of looking forward to the coming of Christ - radical re-thinking. We so often have no understanding of our transgressions. We simply fail to understand the depth and seriousness of the apparently minor transgressions that we take as almost inevitable in the course of our daily lives. The “white” lie, the dismissiveness towards others’ sensitivities, the pure thoughtlessness, the aggression in pursuit of our own way, the petty dishonesties, the pervasive judgementalism. We constantly judge others, in particular, we judge those whom we think to be weaker than we are, those addicted to alcohol, or gambling or drugs. We are all addicted in one way or another, so it ill-behoves us to look down on the perhaps more obvious addictions of others.

For a start, we are all called by the Church to consider our failings and, by prayer and fasting, to seek to amend them. We do this in the light of the coming of Christ and our desperate need to ready ourselves. Let us consider this looking forward to the Coming of Christ. We know as a simple matter of fact that Jesus, the son of Mary, was the Incarnate Son of God and was here in this world for thirty odd years at a particular place and time. We know too that He had quite a lot to say which we have available, to read for ourselves. We know all that - it is not a matter for question or contention among us. So we “believe” that Jesus is in fact God. That all relates to the coming of Jesus into the world around two thousand years ago.

But there is far more than that.

In this season, and the Holy Nativity, we are thinking about His Second Coming into this world. It is very popular to express much of the New Testament in allegorical terms - and perhaps nothing more so than the Second Coming of Christ. It is an uncomfortable thought for those who lead Christian people astray, that there will come a time when Christ turns up here and requires answers. For a start, it smacks of the supernatural - and they wish to divest the New Testament of as much of the supernatural as possible. The Church however, teaches that the Second Coming is a frighteningly real matter which will happen. We admit that we haven’t the faintest idea when it will happen - but happen it will. Christ will come here again. It may be quite soon - who knows? The point is that we must, for our own good, read as much as possible about it in the New Testament and be sure that we know exactly what the Church teaches about the Second Coming. That way we can see why it is important that we prepare ourselves constantly.

So in Advent we reflect, we re-think our ways and we resolve to align ourselves totally with God and His will. That’s it in a nutshell: Aligning ourselves without reservation, no fingers crossed behind our backs, with what Jesus taught us. That is why the additions to the Liturgy throughout this season, refer constantly to this Second Coming, which He Himself emphasised again and again. We read “The night is far spent, the day is at hand”. Today’s Gospel recounts Jesus telling us that His Second Coming will be an event that will be both spectacular and crucial to everyone. We will be made fully conscious in the power of the Divine Light, we will be conscious of all that we did in rejection of God’s love and that consciousness itself will form
either the terrors of hell or the joys of Heaven, according to the individual.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Feast of the Presentation

And the priest received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: The Lord has magnified thy name in all generations. In thee, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel. And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her. - The Protoevangelium of James

Today is the prelude of God's good-will and the heralding of the salvation of mankind. In the temple of God, the Virgin is presented openly, and she proclaimeth Christ unto all. To her, then, with a great voice let us cry aloud: Rejoice, O thou fulfilment of the Creator's dispensation! - Troparion. Tone 4.

The most pure temple of the Saviour, the most precious bridal-chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasure of the glory of God, is on this day brought into the house of the Lord, bringing with her the grace that is in the Divine Spirit. And the angels of God chant praise unto her: she is the heavenly tabernacle. - Kontakion. Tone 4.

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple. The troparion and kontakion for the day really say it all. We are blessed to be able to share in the New Covenant in Christ through Baptism, and it is through Our Lady that this was made possible. As, under the Old Covenant, the Ark of the Covenant was fashioned to house the word - the Law - of God, which was a mere shadow of things to come, so Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, for she housed, nurtured and presented to the world the Logos, the Incarnate Word of God, Who is the fulfilment of the Law and the fruition of all things. For this purpose she was prepared and sanctified and through her desire to conform her will to that of God, the lowly Hebrew maiden became the Mother of her God.

The story in the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James tells of her being dedicated to the Lord by her parents, the holy and righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, and her being presented to the Temple at the age of three years. We are told of how she lived in the Holy of Holies (the Debir, which is the part of the temple where the Ark of the Covenant would have been housed), where she was fed daily by Angels.

While the story itself may be a little fanciful (but not impossible!), it is permeated with the Truth of God. Whether or not a young girl would have been allowed into the temple - and in the Debir at that - is something about which I am not qualified to comment. We know that Our Lady was of a priestly caste and so it is possible that she grew up in the temple grounds with people of similar lineage, which may form the basis of the story. I simply do not know.

What I do know is that a mythical reading of the story robs it of none of its truth. I do see it as a myth - a story that may or may not be historically true, but the historicity of which is irrelevant to the deeper truth that is contained therein. And the deeper truth of this story is that Mary, a young Jewish girl, wholly gave herself over to the will of God, that she became the dwelling-place of the Most High, the Ark of the New Covenant, the precious bridal-chamber wherein heaven was wedded to earth, where eternity and the created realm of space and time were united, and where the divine Logos condescended to become human, that he may conquer death, show forth the Resurrection, and ultimately, take that human nature into the heavenly state at his glorious Ascension.

For this the Church gives thanks and praise to God and due honour to his blessed Mother.

Wherefore, let all faithful people
tell the honour of her name;
let the Church, in her foreshadowed,
part in her thanksgiving claim.
What Christ's mother sang in gladness,
let Christ's people sing the same.
Hail, Mary! Hail, Mary!
Hail, Mary, full of grace!


Creator of the stars of night,
thy people's everlasting Light.
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
and hear thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
should doom to death a universe,
hast found the medicine, full of grace,
to save and heal a ruined race.

Thou camest, the Bridegroom of the Bride,
as drew the world to evening-tide,
proceeding from a Virgin shrine,
the spotless Victim, all divine.

At whose dread Name, majestic now,
all knees must bend, all hearts must bow,
and things celestial Thee shall own,
and things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou whose coming is with dread,
to judge and doom the quick and dead,
preserve us, while we dwell below,
from every insult of the foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three-in-One,
laud, honour, might and glory be,
from age to age eternally. Amen.

V/ Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness.
R/ Let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation.

In the Orthodox Western Rite, today, Sunday, the 20th of November (3rd of December in the secular calendar) is the first of the five Sundays of Advent, and the beginning of the liturgical year. The Advent fast also begins today, in preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord at Christmass, which, this year, falls on a Sunday, making this the longest possible Advent.

Here is a homily for today from the St Petroc Monastery:

Once again, at the outset of the Christian year, on this first Sunday of Advent, we contemplate the ever-present King, the Saviour Who came and Who will come again to this earth.

Luke 4:16-22 is an admirable early Advent text which reads: “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: And, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And He began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears”.

The Law which governed Israel as a theocracy from the time of Moses until the time of Christ foreshadowed Christ. The Jubilee Year, (the acceptable year of the Lord) brought freedom from financial debts. Christ is our freedom from our debts to God: The offences which we have committed throughout our lives. Here we see Christ's fulfillment of all of the Old Testament’s Law.

"Advent" means "coming". Christ comes to man in Bethlehem, in His Word and He will come again on Judgment Day. We in Advent look forward to that Second Coming and we prepare ourselves as we await Him. Not only does Christ fulfill all of the Old Testament Law, but He fulfills all the Messianic Promises in the Old Testament. In the above text He fulfills Isaiah 61:1-3. In Acts 10:43 Peter said: "To Him all the prophets witness that, through His Name, whoever believes in Him will receive the remission of sins." Jesus said (John 5:39): "Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me." In Luke 24:27 we are told: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He (Christ) expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Verse 18 of our text plainly mentions all three persons of the Trinity just as do John 14:16 and 15:26.

Today is the first day of the new church year. Our meeting with Christ - one way or another - is imminent. More imminent than most of us are willing to admit. Now is the time for each of us to prepare, to examine ourselves in the light of a really imminent confrontation with God. We ask that we, ourselves, our souls and bodies may be a reasonable, holy and lively sacrifice to God. Reasonable, Holy and Lively: Acceptable to God, holy as He requires of us and spiritually alive. We must be in good standing with God in order to receive the Holy Mystery, and we must be in good standing when we come before Him, as we most surely will. It is no use putting off the day of examination. Better that we reckon with ourselves now, and correct our many shortcomings, than that we put it off and have to explain those uncorrected shortcomings to God Himself.

We utilise the Advent season of contemplation of the Second Coming of Christ to examine and prepare ourselves. To that end we fast - as this is a season of fasting. This is a sober season because thinking about our many shortcomings is a very sobering thing to do. Fasting isn’t some formalised thing that the Church expects of us, it is a real, a serious thing that we do for our own good. We don’t do it because the Church instructs us to do it, we do it because we desperately need to do it. If we haven’t realised that, then we have probably missed most of the point of Christianity. This life isn’t the whole thing - it is merely the short introduction to Life. We are still at school, we are still preparing. None of us is wise, nor are we experienced in terms of the Life that we must lead beyond this introduction. Understanding the importance of what we do now is vital to us. It behoves us therefore to think a great deal about where we are going and just how prepared we are for the real task ahead of us.

Today we should wish people a joyous and happy New Year in Jesus Christ.


Many of you will have noticed the daily calendar in the right-hand margin. This is merely a bit of Javascript that I added to the blog template and it automatically updates daily. I think that this is a wonderful thing to have. However, it would appear that, for the pre-Nativity fast, the good people who provide this service have chosen to change the text to purple (save for Sundays, which remain red), making reading the text very difficult. As I have no control over the colour of the text, I'm afraid that there's very little that I am able to do about this short of changing the background colour of my blog, which I would prefer not to do. Until the fast ends, it may well be worth just highlighting the text so that it appears clearly.

Growth and Learning (or "the wretched flu")

No, this isn't a section of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Rather, it's just a summary of one or two lessons that I've learnt having not worked for a while and now being back.

1. If you've just started a new job and it turns out that you happen to know a number of the people who work there from elsewhere/previous lives, and those in your training group insist that you know everybody, don't deny it. Experience shows that if you do, within 15 seconds, somebody else who recognises you will approach you and say something to the effect of, 'I haven't seen you in ages!'

2. If you've been off work because of difficulty leaving home for whatever reason, resulting in your isolation from normal day-to-day life and interaction with other people for an extended period of time, then you can reasonably expect your immune system to have stormed off due to feeling neglected. After the first week, you will have contracted the influenza, a cold, rabies or some other unpleasant ailment (a tautology?).

3. Be certain that, whatever your experiences at previous jobs, the payroll department of your new employer will strive to attain unto new heights of incompetence, humorous to all but the poor soul who hasn't been paid because his salary was paid into a bank account of one digit's difference from his own.

More seriously, things are actually going rather well. I don't have much cause to complain and I'm quite looking forward to the coming week. I'm glad I survived week 1. Although I was feeling good about myself for having got this far, I wasn't sure how I'd actually handle getting back into a routine after so long and restoring regular interaction with people but it has gone well, even if I am exhausted and suffering from some virus or other. My body will soon grow accustomed to this sort of thing again, no doubt.

Thanks, again, for all of your support.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pride, Dependence and Employment


Many of you will be aware that I haven't worked for over a year because of problems with depression and anxiety, which, at its worst, meant that I had difficulty even getting on a bus, answering the phone, or going to the shops at any time other than opening time when it would be quiet.

Well the year has passed, and with the support of good friends, the prayers of many other friends (including many here) and hefty doses of Citalopram, I've come through the worst of it. Most recently, my feelings have been linked, not to the initial cause of all this, or to the unpleasant revelations surrounding my mother just this September gone, but rather the fact that I felt that my independence had been taken from me.

The father of a good friend of mine recently had an operation and was told to rest, but was eager to get back to work. At first, I rather judgmentally dismissed this as foolish pride but now I realise that I was quite wrong. When a person finds much of his identity and feelings of self-worth in his independence, in his ability to provide for himself and take care of those he loves, it can be very destructive to suddenly be robbed of that and then to be dependent on others for help, whether it be financial or in terms of physical care.

So on Monday of last week, I bit the bullet and made a talephone call, booking a telephone interview for the following day. I passed that and was invited to an assessment on Saturday morning just gone, at which we applicants were told that, if successful, we would hear from them within 48 hours and that if we didn't, we should assume the worst.

Well, 48 hours came and 48 hours went, and on Monday lunchtime the phone rang. I answered and it was them. Only, they had phoned me to conduct a telephone interview, seemingly not realising that I had done that bit the previous week. Apparently, they had duplicated my records, and so apologised for having raised my hopes. I then sulked (because I'm good at that), until the next evening when, over 24 hours late, they phoned to offer me the job, which I gladly accepted. I'm so pleased.

It's just a call centre customer service job but I'm glad for that because it's the sort of job I've done before and the familiarity should help me move back into the world of work. After all, I have been removed from that sort of environment, and indeed normal day-to-day interactions with people, for over a year now. I have a friend who started working there this week and so that should be a help as well. It also pays significantly more than muy last, similar, job, which is something at which I'm not about to turn up my nose.

I'm so pleased that life is returning to some semblance of normalcy and I'm grateful to everybody for their encouragement, support and prayers, and most of all to God for his grace and mercy in getting me through the quagmire into the present.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Computers and Stuff

My faithful readers may remember that at about this time last year, my housemate and I were burgled and my laptop was stolen. In the intervening period, my housemate and exceptionally good friend has permitted me to use his laptop for my general internet and other computer usage and I am eternally grateful. We moved house in July of this year and my godfather gave me a computer as he was replacing his. It is an exceptionally good machine with the most up-to-date versions of most things and a very decent amount of memory. I have been so well treated, especially as I haven't been in a position over the past year or so to purchase a new one.

Well we've now gone wireless with our internet connexion and here I am, posting from my bedroom, surrounded by my books (which are my weakness) and Hilda (my swiss cheese plant), with AFR playing in the background. By the grace of God and the assistance of good friends (and citalopram ;-) ), things are getting much better for me and I'm so pleased with the positive turn that things have taken.

I just want to give my thanks to all who have remembered me in prayer over the past year and before. Your effectual prayers have been very much appreciated.

Ancient Faith Radio

I was directed to this a few weeks back and have now really got into the habit of having it playing softly in the background whenever I'm online. What a wonderful thing! An Orthodox radio station! The music is so very moving. It is truly inspiring to hear the Faith sung like this, and to hear the quotes from the Saints as well. I also love the fact that, even on Sundays when I'm unable to get to the Liturgy or when there isn't one, I'm able to listen to one online. I've just shared the link with my godfather and he's truly enthralled by it.

Thanks are certainly in order for the providers of this service.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Christ the Saviour Cathedral

Not long after the beginning of my entrance to the blogosphere, I posted a link to some video clips showing the desecration and demolition of Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, the use of the site during the intervening years and the rebuilding of the cathedral. There were also videos of the 5+hour service of reconsecration of the cathedral and the glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. The link to the original post is in the title of this one.

They were extremely moving videos. I shed a tear at the scene of the icons burning and was filled with excitement when I saw the bishops building the new altar.

Sadly, the videos no longer seem to work. I would very much like to download them but I don't know how to contact the administrators of the website, especially as the main site is actually in Russian. Does anybody know how I might contact them or where else I may be able to get my hands on the videos? If so, and you would let me know, I should be very grateful.

Thank you.

An Altar Server's Guide to the Liturgies

Samuel ministered unto the Lord
girded with a linen ephod.

I don't know whether anybody else has come across this. I have found this to be quite useful. It gives all of the rubrics for servers alongside the text of the Divine Liturgy so the user knows where he is up to without the priest having to point and whisper all the time. The only problem is that the text is the people's text and not the priest's text. Really, one has to use it alongside the priest's rubrics in order to for it to be fully useful, as the server needs to know what he is doing in relation to the priest - not the people - for it is the priest whom he is assisting.

That said, I suppose I can understand that the compilers didn't want to cause confusion by cluttering the margin with too many rubrics but by so doing, they have compromised the usefulness of the book. Perhaps it's something to bear in mind for a second edition. The glossary of terms at the back is also a good thing, especially for somebody like me, accustomed only to the terminology of the western tradition.

Overall, I would say that this is a worthy attempt at supplying guidance for new servers, and I commend the effort, especially as there is a notable absence of this sort of thing. Certainly, in my searching, I was unable to find anything else. I hope that many others may find it useful.

Bishop Basil of Sergievo

My joy of what has been going on between ROCOR and the MP has been somewhat overshadowed by recent events to do with the aforementioned retired bishop of the Patriarchate of Moscow. I was so looking forward to the positive effect that a reunited Russian Orthodox presence here in Britain could have had on missionary activity. Yet, at the same time this was seeming more like a reality, Bishop Basil has done this thing, with the aid of the Oecumenical Patriarch, no less.

I know very little about the current situation. It is my understanding that the Moscow Patriarchate's investigation is still ongoing and that they wish to hear Bishop Basil's testimony before taking further action, yet he refuses to submit to the authority of his Patriarch and the Holy Synod, considering himself to be under the jurisdiction of the Oecumenical Patriarchate and now calling himself the Bishop of Amphipolis. I usually don't go in for grapevine politics but I understand that he has been summoned for a third time to appear.

Does anybody know more about this? When is this to take place? If he doesn't turn up, (which is most likely to be the case), how is this likely to affect already strained relations between Moscow and Constantinople? I know that a large part of the reason that talks of union between ROCOR and the Holy Synod of Milan were thwarted because of the latter's refusal to conform to the canonical norms in light of the fact that they had previously accepted a deposed (defrocked?) priest of ROCOR and consecrated him as a "bishop". Is this a similar situation? Should Moscow accept the reality that Bishop basil has already set up his exarchate under Patriarch Batolomeos or would this set an unhealthy and dangerous precedent for DIY religion in Orthodoxy, with no regard for the canons and decency of Church order? Should Constantinople rescind its acceptance of Bishop Basil, at least temporarily, pending a decision from Moscow? Is this whole affair just another in a long line of examples of Constantinople's power-grabbing in light of the grim reality that Orthodoxy is almost non-existent on his own geographical territory?

I'd love to know more. As for the outcome, I suppose we can only wait and see, all the while praying that we don't see a complete severing of communion between Constantinople and Moscow.

ROCOR & Moscow

Blessed be God! This is finally taking shape. It seems now that everything is in place for the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion, which means that by this time next year, Deo volente, we should have normal canonical relations with Moscow and, by extension, the other local churches.

Here is the Act, with the place and dates left blank, as they are still to be decided.

We, the humble Alexy II, by God's mercy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, jointly with the Eminent Members of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, having gathered at a meeting of the Holy Synod (date) in the God-preserved city of Moscow; and the humble Laurus, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, jointly with the Eminent Bishops, members of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, having gathered (time, place);

Being guided by the effort towards reestablishing blessed peace, Divinely-decreed love, and brotherly unity in the common work in the harvest-fields of God within the Fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church and her faithful in the Fatherland and abroad, taking into consideration the ecclesiastical life of the Russian diaspora outside the canonical borders of the Moscow Patriarchate, as dictated by history;

Taking into account that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia performs its service on the territories of many nations;

By this Act declare:

1. That the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, conducting its salvific service in the dioceses, parishes, monasteries, brotherhoods, and other ecclesiastical bodies that were formed through history, remains an indissoluble part of the Local Russian Orthodox Church.

2. That the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is independent in pastoral, educational, administrative, management, property, and civil matters, existing at the same time in canonical unity with the Fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church.

3. The supreme ecclesiastical, legislative, administrative, judicial and controlling authority in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is her Council of Bishops, convened by her Primate (First Hierarch), in accordance with the Regulations [ Polozheniye ] of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

4. The First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is elected by her Council of Bishops. This election is confirmed, in accordance with the norms of Canon Law, by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

5. The name of the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church and the name of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are commemorated during divine services in all churches of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia before the name of the ruling bishop in the prescribed order.

6. Decisions on the establishment or liquidation of dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are made by her Council of Bishops in agreement with the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

7. The bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are elected by her Council of Bishops or, in cases foreseen by the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, by the Synod of Bishops. Such elections are confirmed in accordance with canonical norms by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

8. The bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are members of the Local Council [ Pomestny Sobor ] and Council of Bishops [ Arkhiereiskij Sobor ] of the Russian Orthodox Church and also participate in the meetings of the Holy Synod in the prescribed order. Representatives of the clergy and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia participate in the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in the established manner.

9. The supreme instances of ecclesiastical authority for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are the Local Council and the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church.

10. Decisions of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church extend to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with consideration of the particularities described by the present Act, by the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and by the legislation of the nations in which she performs her ministry.

11. Appeals on decisions of the supreme ecclesiastical court of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are directed to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

12. Amendments to the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia by her supreme legislative authority are subject to the confirmation of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in such case as these changes bear a canonical character.

13. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia receives her holy myrrh from the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

By this Act, canonical communion within the Local Russian Orthodox Church is hereby restored.

Acts issued previously which preclude the fullness of canonical communion are hereby deemed invalid or obsolete.

The reestablishment of canonical communion will serve, God willing, towards the strengthening of the unity of the Church of Christ, of her witness in the contemporary world, promoting the fulfillment of the will of the Lord to “gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:52).

Let us bring thanks to All-Merciful God, Who through His omnipotent hand directed us to the path of healing the wounds of division and led us to the desired unity of the Russian Church in the homeland and abroad, to the glory of His Holy Name and to the good of His Holy Church and Her faithful flock. Through the prayers of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, may the Lord grant His blessing to the One Russian Church and Her flock both in the fatherland and in the diaspora.

Apart from the completely superfluous By this Act - for surely that's what hereby means - I enthusiastically welcome this definitive step along the journey.

There was an address given by Fr Alexander Lebedeff at the All-Diaspora Council in May of this year which went unpublished on the Council website precisely because of its explicit reference to the Act, which had not yet been made public. Now that the Act, along with its supporting documents, has been published, the text of Fr Alexander's address has been posted to the ROCOR website and it does indeed make for harrowing reading. He really brings home the gravity of the present situation, especially by placing it within the wider canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church and by suggesting the likely outcome of not proceeding with restoration of canonical relations with the rest of Orthodoxy. Despite the exciting things that are going on, I'm not sure that I could have stayed in ROCOR had we decided not to go ahead with this, and so I thank our Synod for approving the Act, and I look forward with eagerness to its signing, which I hope will be available at least via webcast.

There have been speculations that this may be overshadowed by other events in the Orthodox world but I'll post more about my questions over that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Sarum Psalter

This is just another shameless plug for an item I'm selling. That's all, folks!

Friday, September 29, 2006

St Kitts


The title of this post links to the homepage of the Anglican churches on the island where I grew up. I had no idea that they had a web presence and I suspect it to be a recent development. In any case, I'm extremely pleased to see it, as it has brought back so many memories. It has been very timely indeed. I explain.

I thank all of you who offered prayers for Stella, the lady whom I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago. What I revealed elsewhere but not here was that she was my mother. The very recent revelation about the nature of her death has left me in some degree of shock, upset, anger and bitterness, for all sorts of reasons.

I don't want to go into too much depth about that here, as it is being dealt with privately, but it has left me yearning for more information about what happened, and with a craving for connexions to her life. In the nine years since I moved back to the UK from St Kitts, I have been in touch with folk there only a handful of times. There are various reasons for this, but now I feel a strong need to restore that connexion to my past, and my mother's past. It's a really strange feeling, but it's a positive change and I plan to just go with it and see where it takes me.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Priest's Handbook

Just another I thought I'd flag up. There may be one more on its way but I make no promises yet.

By Flowing Waters

And another that I have never used for anything other than occasional reference. The little in it that I persoanlly now have use for is in other publications that I own and so others may have more of a use for this than I do.

The Westminster Missal

This is another shameless plug of an item that I'm currently selling on ebay. I just thought I'd flag it up here in case anybody is interested. The link to the auction is in the title of this post. I've had it for a couple of years now but have hardly had occasion to refer to it and so off it goes.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Please pray

The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin-offering. In doing this he acted very well and honourably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin. - 2 Maccabees 12: 42b-45

Of your charity, please pray for the bounties of the Lord's goodness to be extended to Stella: a strong woman for whom the cares of this life became too much, and who laid violent hands upon herself. May whatever she did as a result of human frailty and weakness be cast into oblivion, for God is a good God and a friend of man.

O God, unto Whom all live, and by whose power our bodies, when they die, are not destroyed, but are in due time transformed into a better estate: we humbly beseech Thee, of thy loving-kindness and mercy, to wash away and pardon whatsoever stain of sin contrary to thy holy will thy handmaid may have contracted, through the fraud of the devil and through her own frailty and iniquity; and that Thou wouldest grant that her soul be carried by the hands of thy holy Angels, and be placed in the bosom of thy Patriarchs, of Abraham thy friend, and of Isaac thine elect, and of Jacob thy beloved, where there is no more sorrow nor sadness nor sighing, where the souls of the faithful rejoice with a happy gladness: and that in the last day of the great judgment Thou wouldest cause her to receive among thy Saints and elect ones a portion in thine everlasting glory, where eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which Thou hast prepared for them that love Thee. Through Jesus Christ thine only Son our Lord, Who with Thee and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, God, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Anaphora of St John Chrysostom

Deacon: Let us stand well; let us stand with fear; let us attend, that we may offer the holy oblation in peace.
People: A mercy of peace: a sacrifice of praise!

Priest: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
People: And with thy spirit.
Priest: Let our hearts be on high.
People: We lift them up unto the Lord.
Priest: Let us give thanks unto the Lord.
Prople: It is meet and right to worship the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit: the Trinity, consubstantial and undivided!

Priest (in a low voice, while the people sing the above response): It is meet and right to hymn Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks unto Thee, and to worship Thee in every place of thy dominion: for Thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever-existing and eternally the same, Thou and thine Only-Begotten Son and thy Holy Spirit.

Thou it was Who didst bring us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until Thou hadst brought us back to heaven, and hadst endowed us with thy Kingdom which is to come.

For all these things we give thanks unto Thee, and to thine Only-Begotten Son, and to thy Holy Spirit; for all things of which we know, and of which we know not, and for all the benefits bestowed upon us, both manifest and unseen. And we give thanks unto Thee also for this liturgy which Thou dost vouchsafe to receive at our hands, even though there stand beside Thee thousands of Archangels and ten thousands of Angels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, six-winged, many-eyed, soaring aloft, borne on their wings, (aloud), singing the triumphal hymn, shouting, crying aloud, and saying:

People: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth;
heaven and earth are full of thy glory;
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the Highest!

Priest (in a low voice, while the people sing the above): With these blessed Powers we also, O Master Who lovest mankind, cry aloud and say: Holy art Thou and all-holy, Thou and thine Only-Begotten Son, and thy Holy Spirit: holy art Thou and all-holy, and magnificent is thy glory: Who hast so loved thy world as to give thine Only-Begotten Son, that all who believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life; Who when He had come and had fulfilled all the dispensation for us, in the night in which He was betrayed - or rather, gave himself up for the life of the world - took bread in his holy and pure and blameless hands; and when He had given thanks and blessed it, and hallowed it and broken it, He gave it to his holy Disciples and Apostles, saying:

(aloud) Take, eat: this is my Body which is broken for you, for the remission of sins.
People: Amen.

Priest (in a low voice): Likewise, after supper, He took the cup, saying:

(aloud) Drink, ye all, of this: this is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins.
People: Amen.

Priest (in a low voice): Having in remembrance, therefore, this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Grave, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Session at the right hand, and the second and glorious Advent, (aloud), thine own of thine own, offering unto Thee, on behalf of all, and for all:
People: we praise Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks to Thee, O Lord, and we pray unto Thee, O our God. (sung as slowly or as many times as necessary to cover the epiklesis and the memorials).

Priest (in a low voice, while the above is being sung): Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable and unbloody service, and beseech Thee and supplicate Thee...

Priest: O Lord, Who didst send down thy Most-Holy Spirit upon thine Apostles at the third hour: take Him not away from us, O Good One, but renew Him in us who pray unto Thee.
Deacon: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Priest: O Lord, Who didst send down thy Most-Holy Spirit upon thine Apostles at the third hour: take Him not away from us, O Good One, but renew Him in us who pray unto Thee.
Deacon:Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
Priest: O Lord, Who didst send down thy Most-Holy Spirit upon thine Apostles at the third hour: take Him not away from us, O Good One, but renew Him in us who pray unto Thee.

...send down thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts here spread forth...
Deacon: Bless, Master, the holy Bread.
Priest: ...and make this + bread the precious Body of thy Christ.
Deacon: Amen. Bless, Master, the Holy Cup.
Priest: ...and that which is in this + cup, the Precious Blood of thy Christ.
Deacon: Amen. Bless both, Master.
Priest: ...changing + them by thy Holy Spirit.
Deacon: Amen. Amen. Amen.

Priest: (still continuing in a low voice) ...that to those who shall partake thereof they may be unto cleansing of soul, unto the remission of sins, unto the communion of thy Holy Spirit, unto the fulfilment of the Kingdom of Heaven, unto boldness towards Thee, and not unto judgment or unto condemnation.

And again we offer unto Thee this reasonable service for all those who in faith have gone to their rest before us: Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, and every righteous spirit in faith made perfect: (aloud), especially our all-holy, immaculate, exceedingly blessed and glorious Lady, the Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary:
People: It is very meet to bless thee who didst bring forth God: ever-blessed and most pure and the Mother of our God: more honourable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim; who without defilement barest God the Word: true Mother of God, we magnify thee!
Priest: (in a low voice, while the above is in singing) ...and for the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John; the holy, glorious, and all-laudable Apostles; Saints N. & N., whose memory we celebrate; and all thy Saints, at whose supplications look down upon us, O God. And be mindful of all those who have fallen asleep before us in the hope of Resurrection to life eternal; especially N. & N., and grant unto them rest, O our God, where the light of thy countenance shines upon them.

And again we beseech Thee, be mindful, O Lord, of every bishop of the Orthodox, who rightly dividest the word of thy Truth; of all the Priesthood, the Diaconate in Christ, and of every hieratic and monastic order.

And again we offer unto Thee this reasonable service, for the whole world, for the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, for those who live in chastity and holiness of life, for all civil authorities, and our armed forces; grant them, O Lord, peaceful times, that we, in their tranquility, may lead a calm and peaceful life in all godliness and sanctity.

(aloud) Among the first be mindful, O Lord, of our Great Master and Father Alexei, most-holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia; our Master the very most reverend Metropolitan HILARION, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad; and of our Master, the most reverend Archbishop MARK, whom do Thou grant unto thy churches in peace, safety, honour, length of days, and rightly dividing the word of thy Truth.
People (slowly): And all mankind!

Priest (in a low voice, while the above is in singing): Be mindful, O Lord, of this city in which we dwell, and of every city and countryside, and of those who in faith dwell therein. Be mindful, O Lord, of them that travel by sea, land, and by air; of the sick, the suffering, captives and their salvation. Be mindful, O Lord, of them that bear fruit and do good works in thy holy churches, and who remember the poor; and upon us all send forth thy mercies: (aloud) and grant us with one mouth and one heart to glorify and praise thine all-honourable and majestic Name: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.
People: Amen!


The above is the anaphora from the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. After having been going to the Liturgy regularly now for nearly a year, I only recently came across the entire text, and was astounded by the sheer beauty of it all. Much of it is said quietly during the Liturgy and so I have only heard the parts that have been sung aloud. I just thought I'd share it here for others who, like me, may be unfamilar with it in its entirety, or indeed, at all.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Impressions and Memories

Neither judge an apple by its skin
nor a book by the way it's covered;
for inside those tattered pages
there's a lot to be discovered.

Isn't it funny how we form images of what we expect people to be based on the tiniest amount of interaction with or observation of them?

I remember when I was at college, about five years ago now. Every year the college hosted an "Old People's Party". It wasn't a Christmass party or anything like that - just one day, after college hours, we'd put on a spread for some of the elderly people in the area who perhaps didn't get out very much and were perhaps dependent on others a fair bit. We'd put on a spread, sing songs, play bingo and a few board games, and do some other things.

I volunteered to help one year and on the day of the party, I overslept. Having only about five minutes before my bus was due, I just threw on some clothes and legged it to the bus stop. I had my weekly bus ticket in my pocket but realised at college that I had forgotten to pick up my wallet. Not having had breakfast, I was having a lot of difficulty concentrating on anything after lunchtime as I had no money to get lunch and pride prevented me from asking a friend. I was so very hungry!

Anyway, come the end of classes for the day, I went to help prepare for the party. We arranged chairs and tables, and prepared sandwiches. It was really difficult preparing all this food on an empty stomach. All I'd had to eat for the day was a crisp - one solitary crisp - and that's only because someobody I had been speaking with earlier in the day had been eating a packet of crisps and had offered me one.

We made trays of these sandwiches and then took them through to the next room. As I took a tray through, I thought I'd sneak one of the sandwiches to keep me going for a while. Well, as I took the first bite, I became aware of a disembodied voice, saying, 'I thought the sandwiches were for the old people'. I jumped, looked round, and saw, in the doorway, Mrs Whitelegg. Now Mrs Whitelegg was a teacher with whom I had no dealings at all, as she taught a subject I didn't take in a building that I never had cause to enter. She just happened to be walking past the doorway at the time, then she went on her way without saying anything further. I looked in the other direction back into the main hall, and surely enough, Mrs Waller and some of the students who had been arranging the party had heard Mrs Whitelegg and had looked up. When they saw me look back, most of them politely and sensitively looked away and didn't mention it afterwards. I appreciated that but it was all very awkward afterwards and I can still think of very few occasions when I have been so very embarrassed.

Now, I'm sure that Mrs Whitelegg is a lovely lady, with many good qualities and friends who will vouch for that, but the thing is, because of my limited dealings with her, out of my two years at college, my one memory of her was as "that woman who humiliated me that day when I was hungry and had no money to buy food". Now to be fair, I shouldn't have been eating the sandwich, and now I think more about it, the one memory she had of me must have been as "that boy who steals old people's sandwiches".

I suppose it's a lesson not to judge people's personalities based on limited experience of them and that each person is worth getting to know properly. Still, we live in a rational world where much of how we conduct ourselves is based on our experience and it is often difficult to take a step back from that and acknowledge that our experience is not all that there is to the world and to people. Hmmm.

I'm wittering now, so I'll stop.

Monday, August 07, 2006


All Saints of Britain, pray for us!

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,

and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt-offering he accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.
Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect. - Wisdom 3: 1-9

There seems to be a gradual increase in the "acceptability" of the veneration of the Saints in the wider Christian world. While I find it upsetting that I even have to phrase it in terms of acceptability, I cannot help but welcome this progression. It is right and proper that the Saints ought to be venerated by all Christians and the Anglo-Catholic movement has done so much in the spread of this basic aspect of Christianity into traditions that perhaps would otherwise not have even considered it.

However, while I see the good in this shift, I cannot help but wonder whether the necessarily apologetic manner in which it has been achieved has not had some unfortunate results as well. Firstly, I do not decry for a moment the efforts of those who have restored this practice to its proper place in the lives of many Christians. This was done often amidst much opposition and so had to presented in many cases as an "optional extra", something that "some people might find helpful".

However, the result is that, the Saints are often presented as examples to follow, good people who found God's favour. Of course, the Saints certainly are those things but it hardly stops there, and traditions that fail to recognise this often treat the Saints as no different from notable historical figures who were also good people. Strange practices begin to occur such as the inclusion of the names of people like Mahatma Gandhi and Chief Seattle in the Litany of the Saints - people whose lives certainly showed something of the love that comes from God but who we can hardly know have attained unto Sainthood. At the same time, people refuse to venerate the Sainted Royal Martyrs of Russia because of negative aspects of their earthly lives. I could understand both practices if Sainthood were merely about having lived an exemplary life but the reality is that this sort of thing betrays a gross misunderstanding of what a Saint actually is in the Christian tradition. The Saints are not merely role models. If that were their purpose, many of them wouldn't be Saints.

What we need to always remember is that the Saints are those who have reached the fullness of God's will for each of us. By God's grace, through the life in Christ in the Church, and through their persistent struggles, they have completed their deification. From the Most Holy, Most Pure, Most Blessed and glorious Lady, theMother of God and ever-virgin Mary to Saint Euphrosynos the Cook, they have nurtured the image of God planted in their hearts from the dawn of their existence and have reached the full realisation of the likeness of God. They fully share in the divine nature, in the energies of God - in his holiness, his knowledge, his wisdom, his love. A proper understanding of this should do away with any sense of having to justify their veneration. It ceases to be merely acceptable and becomes right and proper in the life of the Christian.

Certainly, there will be those Saints whose earthly lives touch us personally more than others due to the depth of the holiness of God that was apparent even in their lives here on earth. There will be those whose lives make us realise so very easily that they, too, were imperfect, as indeed we are. While this is all extremely useful as a pointer to what God would have us be, and the possibility of our reaching that despite our unworthiness, none of this detracts from their present state, which is the reason why we venerate them.

And so we pray to the Saints, we ask for their protection, their guidance, their assistance on our journey of theosis, and we ask for their prayers to God in whose nature they dwell.

All Saints of Britain, pray for us!

Friday, August 04, 2006


A number of people over the past few months have asked about my reasons for converting to Orthodoxy, and a few have actually been interested in the detail of my journey. I think that it would be rather a healthy exercise to assess my journey thus far and put my thoughts down in writing, so here we are.

Now, where to start?

I suppose the beginning is as good a place as any. I was born here in the UK, in Manchester, into a predominantly Anglican family that had various degrees of church attachment. My mother died when I was quite young and so I was raised by my very devout grandmother. She is the reason that I am a Christian and I owe so very much to her. We were part of the worshipping community at a middle-of-the-road parish – the sort of place where people speak of “going to church” rather than “going to Mass”. It is your standard, suburban MOTR sort of parish, with wonderful people.

At the age of seven years, I moved with my grandmother back to her home country of St Kitts & Nevis, in the Caribbean. The historical tradition of much of the Anglican Province of the West Indies, and certainly of the Diocese of the North-Eastern Caribbean and Aruba, is Anglo-Catholic. The theological college was founded by the Mirfield brothers, and copies of The English Missal, while now unused, can still be found in many a church sacristy. There were nine parish churches on the island, and the Patronal Festival of each was marked by a Solemn Mass to which at least one minibus-full from each of the other parishes made an appearance. We were taught the Angelus, (which, incidentally, was the name of the diocesan newsletter) and we said the Anima Christi corporately after every Mass. This is the point where I stopped going to church because I had to and started going to Mass because I wanted to. This was after the first year I lived in St Kitts when I went to Mass with my Catholic cousins.

It was in this context that I was formed in Christianity. I was an altar server, ardent Sunday-School-goer, and took myself to about every service that was on (except for the weekday Mass which was on Tuesdays at 6 a.m.). I was surrounded by the awe and mystery of a sacramental community of faith, who sought to become one with God. I was taught a great reverence for the sacraments and my faith continued to grow. I thank God for those years.

In Confirmation class, (yes, we actually had classes where we were taught Christianity and not the informal get-togethers popular nowadays, where people “share their experiences of Jesus”), we explored the Creed and were taught what I came in later years to understand as a development of the so-called “branch theory”. In this version, the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” was a collection of various bodies of varying beliefs and practices. Each was a “branch” of the church and, while each branch held different beliefs about even the essentials, they were all part of the church, despite their various errors, because they all sought to follow Christ. This all sounds very nice and sweet, and, as I was nine years old at the time, and as I had no reason to question what I had been told, I didn’t. I was, however, fully aware that this was not the view held by all Christians as I had spent a year with my Catholic cousins. Anyway, more about that later.

I moved back to Britain in 1998 at the age of fifteen, and went back to the church that we had gone to before. I got involved, again as an altar server and chorister, and was elected to the Parochial Church Council. I tried to fit in but the “meat and two veg” religion that exists in middle-of-the-road Anglican churches just seemed devoid of much of what my faith was based on. This was a culture shock to me. In St Kitts, talk of Anglo-Catholicism will get you stared at blankly. It’s a term that doesn’t exist there at all because the concept it refers to doesn’t exist as something separate from "mainstream" Anglicanism, and so they have never needed a word for it. What is known in Britain as Anglo-Catholicism, in St Kitts, is simply Anglicanism. It’s all they’ve ever known and the concept of a middle-of-the-road Anglican church would be very foreign to them indeed. Evangelical Anglicanism would simply be beyond comprehension to them as indeed it was to me for many a year, even after I first came across this phenomenon after my return to the UK.

One thing after another happened that started me looking elsewhere. There was no Good Friday Liturgy, no Easter Vigil, no incense, and no devotions to Our Lady. When I asked for the prayers of “Blessed Mary, the Virgin Mother of God” while leading the intercessions one Sunday, I was approached afterwards by the parish priest to be told that there had been a complaint, so next time I asked for the prayers of “Blessed Mary, the Virgin Queen of Heaven”. When I was approached again, I explained that just as some people found my inclusion of this unacceptable, so I found their omission of it unacceptable, yet I had the courtesy not to make complaints about prayers they obviously put a lot of effort into. (I was an arrogant 16-yr-old so please allow me some leeway). As it happens, nobody commented on my prayers again, except for a few closet spikes who thanked me for them. There wasn’t even a fuss when the thanksgiving for the lives of the departed turned into prayers for the repose of the souls of the departed. It was the custom at this parish to leave the blessed sacrament on the altar after the mass as the aumbry was in the chapel which was some way away (it was a modern building of unique design). After the mass, one of the servers would take the sacrament to the chapel and reserve it. One Sunday, as I was doing this, I followed the custom that I had been brought up with and held the ciborium high, walking with my head bowed. As I was approaching the chapel, two ladies who were chatting saw me, pointed, giggled, and one of them asked, ‘Ooo! What have you got there?’ I said, ‘The Body of Christ’, and went on my way. I look back at this and find it unbelievably rude and self-righteous, and I would never do that today, but as I had been brought up, those ladies should have been on their knees and, at 16 years of age, I was disgusted by their pointing and giggling, which I saw as unashamed irreverence of a sort I wouldn’t have expected in church. The thing is, they obviously saw nothing wrong with it and were genuinely asking what it was.

How could I continue worshipping there?

I began to go to the Saturday evening vigil mass at the local Catholic church in addition to my Sunday mornings at the Anglican church. I went for a few months and became quite involved there as well. I look back and wonder how I did it on Saturday evenings and then all over again on Sunday mornings but I suppose it’s possible when one is in one’s teens. This didn’t prove to be much better. There was certainly more reverence for the sacraments and holy images but the music and liturgy were dire. Still, I approached the parish priest about catechesis, and he put me in touch with the parish deacon. Well, that was fun! We had a few one on one meetings during which he explained the differences between what Anglicans believe and what Catholics believe, and as we went through various topics, time and time again I had to point out that what I was taught as an Anglican bore little resemblance to what he was attributing to Anglicanism and was almost identical to what he was attributing to Catholicism. I’m not entirely sure he ever understood Anglo-Catholicism and must have wondered at this rather eccentric young man who came to see him once per week. Eventually, I got rather fed up of it all and dropped Rome.

At the ecumenical Good Friday service in the civic centre, I mentioned in passing to somebody that I was looking for a church that did an Easter Vigil. It turns out that, while she worshipped at an Evangelical church (because it was nearby and she had toddlers), she had been brought up at a church that does a “cracking Easter Vigil”. I went along and she was right. Four weeks later I went again, and decided that was where I wanted to be. I resigned from the PCC and left, having got utterly and completely fed up. (As an aside, my advice to anybody unhappy with his church is to leave before you become bitter towards it. It really isn’t healthy).

To cut a long story short, I moved about a bit in terms of where I lived but managed to keep my sanity in churches of a decent tradition. During this time, I came across a Christian discussion forum where I spent a fair amount of time and where I first came across Orthodoxy. I had known it existed but that was the extent of my knowledge, as there was no Orthodox presence in St Kitts. I also began to explore a vocation to priesthood. However, due to a number of reasons, that was placed on the back burner. Things were not helped by a member of this forum making malicious use of his knowledge of my real life identity. Anyway, I re-registered on the site under a different name and continued to learn about some elements of Orthodoxy from some of the Orthodox members. I never thought of converting, though.

During this time, I had been a supporter of the ordination of women. Without going into too much depth here into the theology, I saw that a person needed to be human in order to be the image of Christ as a priest and that any further requirement was unnecessary. (At the time, I had not been exposed to the idea of sex as being an intrinsic part of who we are, but I digress). The only objection to the ordination of women that I ever had any sort of sympathy with was the argument from authority. If we, as Anglicans, claimed to be part of the same catholic church as our Catholic and Orthodox brethren, and claimed to have the same Orders, then by what authority could we change them without the consent of the other two major “branches” of the church? I placed these thoughts on the back burner and left them there until a couple of years later, when the furore surrounding the consecration of Gene Robinson, when the same issues were raised yet again.

I began to seriously question all of this. Is Anglicanism right and Catholicism and Orthodoxy wrong? Who says? Where does authority in the Church come from? Where does unity in the Church come from? Indeed, what is the Church?

Well the problems came when I began to find answers. It all began at about November, 2004. Looking at the history of what actually happened in the centuries leading up to the Schism, I arrived at the conclusion that, contrary to what I had been told about Anglicanism and Orthodoxy having much in common because they both split from Catholicism, the reality was that it was quite the other way round, and that it was Rome that had split from Orthodoxy. At the time, this didn’t mean too very much as I still accepted the “branch theory" that I mentioned above, that, despite our differences, we’re one big happy family, honestly. However, even this began to grow less and less convincing as I delved deeper. I looked at the Oecumenical Councils and the various heresies that they dealt with. I looked at how those who had left the Church to follow Arius and Nestorius, among others, had been reconciled with the Church, at the various methods laid down for receiving into the Church people from various heretical sects. I looked at modern Orthodox essays about unity and the Faith and it all seemed to make sense. God is Truth and all we know of the Truth comes from God. Christ prayed that we may all be one and promised us the gift of his Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth. Therefore, a separation from the Truth does not constitute the formation of a new “branch” within the Church, but rather, it constitutes a separation from the Church. I looked at Scripture and began to realise that what I had been taught about the nature of the Church didn’t seem consonant with what I read in both Scripture and the writings of the Fathers.

At about this time, I got in touch with an Orthodox priest via e-mail and I explained my journey. He was very gentle about the whole affair and wasn’t at all pushy. Having been an Anglican priest himself and having moved for many of the same reasons, I think he understood. (He is now my parish priest). He would e-mail me every now and then to make sure that I was all right and to see how I was getting on, and one of the Orthodox members of the aforementioned Christian forum, who is a local priest, was also a helpful presence for me.

Still, I tried to convince myself of the truth of the branch theory. Of course I did! I had a vested interest in proving it true, as do all Anglicans. My entire life had been outside of Orthodoxy, my formation in the Christian faith had been outside of Orthodoxy, my baptism, my confirmation, my exploration of a vocation to priesthood. My family were all outside of Orthodoxy, my friends, those I knew and loved. These things meant a great deal to me. Surely, this was the reason the branch theory was invented in the first place - as an attempt to justify a situation that was not in keeping with the traditional self-understanding of the nature of the Church. Of course I didn’t want to accept it, but the reality of it is that none of the above made it true – none – and I realised that the sooner I came to terms with it, the healthier it would be for me personally and for my relationships with others.

Having accepted that I was outside the Church, I began to explore the implications of this. Do Sacraments exists outside the Church? Was my baptism a Baptism? Was my confirmation a Confirmation? Had I, in fact, ever received the Eucharist? Was my parish priest even a priest? It got to the point where I was kneeling at the mass on Sundays, not knowing whether what was coming towards me was the Body of Christ or a piece of bread. Do I adore and reverently receive a piece of ice-cream wafer? Do I decline to receive and risk turning my back on my Lord and my God? What was I to do? I was in tears on more than one Sunday.

This is where I began to grow bitter. How dare the Anglican church put me in this situation! I had trusted it. For years, I had been taught by it and had been willing to serve it. Now, suddenly, I realise that what it had taught me over the years was untrue, and I was now left in a position where I was torn in two at the moment which for me, had been the summit of my Christian life Sunday by Sunday. How dare it do this to me! I felt hurt, angry and betrayed. Of course, I knew that the people who taught me what they had actually believed it, and that, logically, I had no reason to be angry. To be fair, I wasn’t angry at any individual but rather at the institution. This soon passed though. The time was ripe for me to leave and this decision was a great step on the healing process because the relief caused by it far outweighed the bitterness, although the anger was to resurge later on for a short time.

Therefore, after many years of moving about and after six months of specifically moving towards Orthodoxy, I left the Anglican church in August, 2005. I was made a catechumen the following month and spent the next few months learning more and more about Orthodoxy and settling into a new way of being. Then I was Baptised, Chrismated, and received the Eucharist for the first time in February of 2006. Blessed be God!

I still hold to the belief that the Sacraments are God’s means of grace within the New Covenant – the Church - and that while He is not incapable of bestowing it howsoever and wheresoever He pleases, it is not our place to claim to know if, where and how He does that. All we can know is what we have in his Covenant with us – the Church. I firmly believe Orthodox ecclesiology as part of the Christian Faith and believe the branch theory and ecumenism based on it to be an ecclesiological heresy. I have no qualms about expressing this where it comes up in discussion in Christian circles. I do not wish to be responsible for furthering the same sort of fallacy that I was subjected to by people who, in turn, had been unwittingly subjected to it themselves and genuinely believed it. I pray for God’s grace on those outside the Church, including my friends and my family, as I trust in the mercy of God, and I take comfort in the verse from the Dies Irae:

Through the sinful woman shriven,
Through the dying thief forgiven,
Thou to me a hope hast given.

Now, I have my own salvation to work out, and that is what I strive and struggle to do, while at the same time trying to raise an awareness of the Church and the need to come to Her for our salvation.

As for other issues, such as the ordination of women and others, I believe the Church to be true for that is Christ’s promise, and I do not have the arrogance to place my own personal conclusions above those of the Church. At the same time, while I am happy to subscribe to a “The Church teaches…” form of Christianity, (for I believe it to be the only one), this does not mean that I left my brain in the font when I was Baptised. I try to understand why the Church teaches what She does and pray for the union of my will with the will of God. Therefore, I continue to study and read and discuss. The difference now is that what I believe is no longer down to me alone and my own limited reasoning but to the glorious witness of our Holy Tradition – the guidance of the Spirit as promised by Christ. If my own reasoning were the basis of Truth, we would be in a sorry state indeed. I don’t believe that 2000 years of Saints have got it wrong and I have come to set the Church right. It isn’t true because I believe it: I believe it because it is true. If this gets me accused of having been assimilated into the Borg mentality, then so be it. I think that sort of accusation betrays a gross ignorance of Orthodoxy but we can only pray for those who have already made up their minds and commend them to God’s mercy. To those who are still questioning and exploring, mine is just one of many journeys, and I have posted it here, not out feelings of self-importance, but at the request of others. There are many, many other journeys into Orthodoxy and many of the regular contributors here will, no doubt, be able to share their own, much more spiritual paths.

As for me, I’m just thankful to God for bringing me to this point, for providing so many angels along the way, and for giving me support in the persons of those here and elsewhere who have tolerated my questions, assertions, confusions, and got completely frustrated with me at times as well. Thank you.

O heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life, come and abide in us, cleanse us from all impurities, and save our souls, O Good One!