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

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Benedictine Fellowship of St Laurence

I have just learnt of the existence of this effort. It seems a wonderful development and I pray that God may bless their work and bring it to fruition for the salvation of souls. There is more detail about the plans for a retreat house in the pdf newsletter, The Chalice, linked from the above site. It is very encouraging indeed. It would be lovely to see a monastic community be established there at some point in the future.

I also think that the setting aside of burial space is a very wise move indeed. I don't know what the situation is in the US but it is not good in England. There is no Orthodox cemetery that I know of that is under the care of anybody in communion with the Church. There was Brookwood but things are sadly as they now are and we must accept that. However, the result is that the faithful are laid to rest in blessed graves in otherwise unconsecrated ground, facing east if they happen to get a plot that allows for this. It really is quite unacceptable. We need a cemetery, consecrated to the purpose for the burial of the physical remains of those who have died, looking for the Dayspring and awaiting the Resurrection to eternal life in our Lord, the Christ.

I hope that things go well for this venture and may God bless those behind it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

St Elisabeth's Convent, Minsk

Remember everything I told you, my dears. Always be not only my children, but obedient disciples. Keep together and be like one soul - everything for God - and say like St John Chrysostom, as he was sent into exile: "Glory to God for all things!" - St Elisabeth the New Martyr

Some of you will know of the travelling nuns. At least one a year, two of the nuns from St Elisabeth's convent in Minsk, Belarus, travel to Great Britain in a van, and drive across the country, visiting parishes, selling their wares, and taking orders for other things. Usually Mother Maria and Sister Tatiana come to raise funds to enable to the work that the nuns do with children with special needs. Some months ago we watched a DVD at church showing some of the work that they do and it really was tear-jerking. It was actually quite funny to see nuns with painted faces and bee antennae on their heads, dancing around with the children.

Our parish commissioned an icon of our patron Saints, which arrived and was blessed last month. It is truly beautiful. The detail and colour combinations blend so well and it is clear that the nuns take to heart the words of St Elisabeth, which are remarkably similar to the Benedictine dictum ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus, (that in all things God may be glorified). The cost was also a fraction of what it would have been had we ordered something like that in the UK. While it would be good to support our local iconographers, the truth is that many people cannot afford to pay the sort of prices that are charged by people who write icons in order to earn a living. Understandably they must charge for their time and I do not criticise them at all but the nuns produce so many icons for churches and individuals that everything is readily available to them, and, because they live communally and much more simply than most of us do, the costs are kept quite low. It would be good to be able to support them and their work. If I remember, I shall take a photograph of our parish icon and post it here.

Sadly, I don't actually know how to contact them but I'm sure I can find out easily enough if anybody were to want to know.

Saint Cyprian

St Cyprian of Carthage, Bishop, Doctor of the Church, Martyr +258

When I was made a catechumen and later baptised, I was given the name Michael, which had always been my name anyway. There was never really anything in the way of discussion about the taking of another Saint's name. While we have never discussed it, I think that my parish priest may be of the school of thought that says that if one already has a Saint's name, it is right to keep that name for, after all, that Saint has guided and prayed for the person and has helped to bring him to the point of coming to Christ. I see much merit in this and it does indeed make sense to me. That said, it seem to me that, on the psychological level, a change of name is a good way of marking the beginning of a new way of life. A conversion of will, heart, mind, body, and entire being to the Way, a rebirth as a new creature from the font of Baptism, seems to naturally call for a new name. We see in Scripture the understanding that the name is tied up with the identity of a person, and we see names changed as they understand themselves and their relationship with God differently.

I should very much like to take a new name in the Church. Part of me is very glad that I didn't choose a name when I was baptised, largely because I knew very little about the plethora of Saints that there are, and would have likely chosen the name of Bertram/Bertelin, after the local Saint whose tomb I visited on the day before my Baptism. However, in honesty, while I have a great privilege in being able to make pilgrimage to his holy places, and while I am moved by the humility displayed I his life, I haven't really developed a devotion to him in the way that I have St Winefride or St Cyprian, both of whom I knew little to nothing before I came to Orthodoxy and began to learn much more about the Saints.

I really do feel an affinity to St Cyprian, for the clarity of his teachings, the pastoral sensitivity in working out the practical application of them as they apply to real people, and mostly for the nature of his teachings. As some will know, my initial reasons for being spurred to explore Orthodoxy were to do with ecclesiology. That has acted as a springboard for the rest of my love and understanding of our holy Tradition, and I find that love and understanding affirmed and expanded by the writings of St Cyprian. The Church as a communion of God's children, bound together by common faith and love for God and one another, in celebration of God's love for us, and with the destiny of moving into oneness of life with the Trinity really is quite beautiful. While much of what is found in St Cyprian's treatises and epistles may not be very popular among many people today, his writings are held up as a clear expression of Christian understanding on the matters on which he wrote, and he himself was martyred for confessing that Christian Faith. He really serves as a great inspiration to me and it would be lovely to be able to take his name. However, I have been baptised with the name Michael and that is what my name is in the Church. There must be some sense in this, but it is unclear to me at the present why the delay in my knowing much about the Saints is simultaneously the opportunity for me to find in whom I find one in whim I find strength and inspiration and also the reason why it is too late to take his name.

Perhaps this is one of those occasions where I need to allow my own will to be moulded by God's, even though I don't quite understand.

Monday, December 24, 2007


The Old Testament Trinity, St Andrei Rublev

It's one thing to understand on the academic level that mankind is called to grow into the communion and life of the Trinity but it's another thing entirely to see the effects of this in our day-to-day relationships.

Within the past month or so, I have, by God's grace, experienced the peace and happiness that have come with family relationships that are improving for the first time since the late unpleasantness. The need of man to be at one with his fellow human beings in a relationship of love is one that really cannot be denied. It just feels right, and it is the state in which we find ourselves at our happiest. At no time is this more evident than when relationships suffer or, worse yet, come to an end entirely. I have also had a friendship come to a very painful (but practically necessary) end, and although there has been no animosity involved, I feel so empty, as though an essential part of me has been removed. It's a similar feeling to that experienced when somebody dies.

I'm not wailing or lamenting, but rather just sharing my musings. It is one of those
occasions - you'll all know the ones I mean - where I have suddenly come to an awareness of real life and doctrine meeting, and it just struck me as noteworthy. I suppose I've nothing much more interesting than that to say.

Do have a holy celebration of the Nativity of the Lord God, those of you who are celebrating today.

The Monastic Diurnal Group

I was pleased to recently discover the new and much-improved group, now hosted by Google. There is a good collection of articles on the Benedictine way of life and resources for the Divine Office. While it assumes use of the Revised Julian calendar, much of it is still invaluable to those of us on the Julian calendar. I'm grateful to Subdeacon Benjamin and others for their work and thought I'd post here just in case there were any others who, like me, came late to an awareness of this.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall change the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory. - Philippians 3:20-21

All ye who seek for Jesus, raise
your eyes above, and upward gaze:
there may ye see the wondrous sign
of never-ending glory shine.

Behold Him in celestial rays
Who never knoweth end of days;
exalted, infinite, sublime;
older than heav'n or hell or time.

This is the Gentiles' King and Lord;
the Prince by Judah's race adored,
promised to Abraham of yore
and to his seed for evermore.

To Him the prophets testify;
and that same witness from on high,
the Father seals by his decree:
'Hear and believe my Son', saith He.

All glory, Lord, to Thee we pay,
Transfigured on the mount to-day;
all glory as is ever meet,
to Father and to Paraclete. Amen.
Quicumque Christum - The Office Hymn at Vespers

I love the Feast of the Transfiguration, and shall be celebrating it tomorrow at the Parish of the Intercession of the Mother of God here in Manchester.

I'm ashamed to say that it was only last year that I began to properly understand the significance of the Feast, and yet I'm delighted that I now do. It had always been for me the cause of some confusion. Yes, Our Lord appeared in brilliance and two long-deceased key figures in the history of the people of Israel appeared along with Him, but what was the point of it all.

It is, of course, Christ's showing to us that He is the fulfilment of all things, and giving us a taste of the pure Light that is God, in which we are called to share, and which is the purpose of our journey of theosis/deification, and the whole point of our life and existence. Moses and Elijah's presence show Christ as the summit of both the Law and the Prophets, not called to replace them but to show their meaning in the splendour of their fullness in Him.

The disciples, who are with Christ, not having yet completed their theosis, are unable to look upon Him transfigured for they do not yet share in that brilliance, holiness, and life of the Trinity. I love the way the Transfiguration icons show them in various states of disarray, averting their eyes, tumbling down the mountain, falling to the ground. For them to behold that Presence would be destructive to them. We see the same thing in the Old Testament where contact with holiness means sure and certain death. Uzziah reaches out to prevent the Ark of the Covenant from falling and dies instantly because he lived before the Incarnation and Ascension, before the New Covenant, where completion of theosis was quite simply impossible. Only those in the Old Covenant who had met with God's favour were able to approach Him, and even then it was in veiled form, as a burning bush, or a voice from a cloud. Even then, for them to have been exposed to the fullness of the splendour of God would have been pain beyond what they could bear. This is hell - the brilliant Presence of God as experienced by those who have not accepted his grace to conform their hearts, minds, bodies, wills, and their entire being to Him. This bizarre concept that hell is somehow the absence of God is just too far removed from God's revelation of Himself to us and indeed from the belief and practice of the Church to be taken seriously.

O heavenly King, Comforter, the 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 impurity, and save our souls, O Good One!
- from the Trisagion Prayers

Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?

And from thy Presence whither shall I flee?
If I go up to heaven, Thou art there;
if I go down into hades, Thou art present there.
If I take up my wings toward the dawn
and make mine abode in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there shall thy hand hold me.
- verses from Psalm 138

How can there be a place where God is not? Yes, hell is a separation from God but only in the sense of self-imposed rejection of unity and communion with Him, causing his Presence to be experienced as unbearable agony.

Yet with our the restoration of our human nature to the heavenly state at Christ's Ascension was the gate once again opened for us to follow, including all those who had died before the coming of Christ who, at his glorious Resurrection, pulled them from the jaws of death and Hades where they had been waiting.

Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was held by it extinguished it.
Having descended into Hades, He made Hades captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of his flesh.
And Isaiah, receiving this beforehand, cried out:
'Hades,' said he, 'was embittered when it met Thee in the lower regions.'
It was embittered, for it was destroyed.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was cast down.
It was embittered, for it was bound.
It received a body, and met God face to face.
It received earth, and encountered heaven.
It received that which was seen, and fell upon that which was unseen.
O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen! and thou art cast down.
Christ is risen! and the Angels rejoice.
Christ is risen! and life lives.
Christ is risen! and not one of the dead remains in the grave.
- from the Paschal catechetical sermon of St John Chrysostom.

So in the Transfiguration, we have a foretaste of our calling, made possible by Christ's taking upon Himself our human nature, descending to our death and conquering it by his glorious Resurrection, and taking that human nature once more into the Presence of God. It is this destiny of ours that in which the Saints already share, and of whom Our Lady is chief, whose glorious Assumption we celebrate in a few days' time. May they pray for us.

A blessed Feast of the Transfiguration to all celebrating at this time.

O God, Who in the glorious Transfiguration of thine Only-Begotten Son didst confirm the mysteries of the Faith by the testimony of the fathers, and in the voice which came down from the bright cloud didst marvellously foreshow the perfect adoption of sons: vouchsafe in thy mercy to make us coheirs with the glorious King, and grant that we may be partakers of his glory. Through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, Who with Thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, God, world without end. Amen.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Holy Anna, Judah's glory!

The noble stock of Jesse hath brought forth a pleasant stem, from which doth spring a flower of wondrous fragrance. - Magnificat Antiphon for Vespers of the Feast

Holy Anna! Judah’s glory!
through the Church from east to west
ev’ry tongue proclaims thy praises,
Holy Mary’s Mother Blest.
Under thy protecting banner,
here assembled in thy name,
Mary’s mother, gracious Anna,
grace and help of thee we claim!

Saintly kings and priestly forbears
blended in thy sacred line;
thou in virtue those before thee
didst excel by grace divine.

Linked in bonds of purest wedlock,
thine it was for us to bear,
by the favour of high heaven,
our salvation’s morning star.

From thy stem in beauty blossomed
ancient Jesse’s mystic rod;
earth from thee received the Mother
of th’almighty Son of God.

All the human race benighted
in the depth of darkness lay;
when in Anne it saw the dawning
of the long-expected day.

Honour, glory, virtue, merit,
be to Thee, O Virgin’s Son!
with the Father and the Spirit,
while eternal ages run.

Vespers this evening begins the Feast of Ss Anne and Joachim, the parents of the Mother of God. My Anglican parish church when I was growing up was dedicated in honour of St Anne and so I have had an affinity to her for some years. I even adopted her name as my screen name on a discussion forum for a few weeks until I realised that people had begun to assume that I was female. It surprises me that so many do not know who she is.

Only as an adult, however, did I come across the Protoevangelium of James, perhaps because the Presentation of Our Lady on the 21st of November doesn't feature in the kalendar of the Anglican Province of the West Indies. I think that this gives us a splendid picture of the faith of Our Lady's parents in constantly praying to God for a child and in so willingly offering her to his service. They are certainly models that I could do with emulating much more, and I hope that their prayers will aid me to do this.

Holy Joachim, pray for us!
Holy Anna, pray for us!
Holy Mary, pray for us!
May the divine help remain with us always, and may the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Mother Anne, be joyful;
sing, O mother lowly,
since thou art the parent
of God's Mother lowly.

Praise thy wondrous daughter;
Joachim, too, raises
to the Virgin Mary
his paternal praises.

For in her our planet
first hath benediction
which in hapless Eva
suffered malediction.

Therefore take the praises
joyous hearts are paying;
and from all defilement
cleanse us by thy praying.

Father, Son eternal,
Holy Ghost supernal,
with one praise we bless Thee,
Three-in-One confess Thee. Amen.
Gaude, mater Anna - The Office Hymn from 1st Vespers

The morning star succeeds to night,
the dawn soon follows, growing white
to herald in the surise bright
that floods the waking world with light.

Christ is the sun of righteousness,
the dawn, the Mother full of grace;
bright Anne precedes her, like the star,
to drive the shades of law afar.

Lo, Anne; the very fruitful root,
the tree of healing, whence a shoot
to richest blossoming did spring,
and brought us Christ, to Whom we sing:

All honour, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born, to Thee;
all glory as is ever meet,
to Father and to Paraclete. Amen.
Succedit nocti Lucifer - The Office Hymn from Lauds

Let all the Saints in concert sing,

the mother of that Maid to laud
by whose unstainèd childbearing
salvation came to men from God.

She sought her faithful progeny
from God the Father, Lord of light;
and merited most worthily
the pride of virgins, Mary bright.

To Joachim, esteemed the peer
of any in his goodliness,
Anne brought forth Mary, mother dear
of Jesus, King of righteousness.

Let Jesse's noble stock efface
from mother Eve ancestral traits:
Anne bears her child, the child of grace,
the fairest blossom of the Saints!

All honour, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born, to Thee;
all glory, as is ever meet,
to Father and to Paraclete. Amen.
Omnis sanctorum concio - The Office Hymn from 2nd Vespers


Our parish is on a bit of a break at the moment, only for a few weeks while my parish priest is away. Perhaps if we get our own building we could have Reader services during August.

Oh well, it gives me the opportunity in a few weeks' time to visit the cathedral in London. I have wanted to go for some time but my plans have always been thwarted by people or circumstances. Our bishop is visiting the diocese at the end of the month and will serve an Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at the cathedral, and perform a diaconal Ordination as well. I suppose that a few of you will have had the letter from Reader Andrew Bond that accompanied the most recent edition of Orthodox News, alerting us that he is to be ordained to the diaconate. Am I right in believing that he will need to be ordained to the subdiaconate the day before? Or does the "no two orders in any one day" rule only apply to the diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopate? If he is ordained the day before,it will probably be a quiet affair. In any case, I'm quite excited at the prospect of seeing my first Ordination and visiting the cathedral of my diocese for the first time.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


I tried to think up a witty play on "LloydsTSB" but failed miserably, hence the rather dull post title. I'm sorry. :-(

I am declaring my own little war on LloydsTSB (well not really, but I'm walking). They are bullies. I have long known this but their most recent bank charges total £125, which I wouldn't mind so much if it weren't for the fact that these charges result from my being overdrawn due to charges imposed by them in the first place. You make 1 mistake! I'm also aware of the existence of a student counselling and liaison service that they partially sponsor but will not waive debts owed to them by students, even when approached by the service that they themselves fund. What's the point of paying for such a thing if you aren't going to recognise its existence? Or is their sponsorship simply a low-cost means of creating a sympathetic image for themselves?

Anyway, I'm reclaiming my charges for the past 6 years, with interest. It will probably take a few months but it ought to be well worth the effort and the wait.

In the meanwhile, I have moved to Alliance & Leicester. I look at the terms of their basic current account and I wonder why I have been living in the darkness of LloydsTSB lo these past 9 years. It may sound strange to most readers that somebody should rejoice in being given a debit card that isn't Electron, or a cheque book, or the ability to withdraw more than £200 on any given day, but there it is. These are the things I didn't have with LloydsTSB but that it seems from conversations with friends that most people take for granted.

Oh well. Whinge over.

As you were.


Ok, so having promised blog updates on this month's feasts I went and missed Ss Peter and Paul and the Feast of All Holy Apostles. By the way, does anybody know the provenance of "All Holy Apostles"? It's the 30th of June (13th July) but I don't know where it comes from, each of the Apostles already having his own feast.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Of your charity...

...please pray for the repose of Stella, that God may have mercy upon her and draw her unto Himself. Some of you may remember that I posted about certain unpleasant revelations late last year. Today is her first anniversary since it all came to light and I'm not handling it very well. I plan to make a little pilgrimage later today to my hometown and visit a few places of significance (in the hope that the current residents don't think I'm stalking them). Please remember her and me in your prayers. Thank you.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world: grant them rest.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world: grant them rest.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world: grant them rest everlasting.

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 this Thy handmaid may have contracted, through the fraud of the devil and through her own frailty and iniquity; and that Thou wouldest direct that her soul be carried by the hands of Thy Patriarchs: of Abraham Thy friend, and of Isaac Thine elect, and of Jacob Thy belovèd, 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 Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Christminster on the move!

I haven't really been pottering around much in the Western Rite blogosphere over the last couple of weeks and so managed to miss the news that the Benedictine monastery of Christ the Saviour in Rhode Island is, after many years of struggling to accommodate its needs in its current situation, to move to more substantial premises in Canada.

Benjamin Johnson has more here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Russian Church Reunification Video

Please see the entry here from 17/05/07 for a video of the events.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Invention of the True Cross

The royal banners forward go;
the Cross shines forth in mystic glow;
where He in flesh, our flesh Who made,
our sentence bore, our ransom paid -
from the Vesperal Office Hymn of the Feast

O Cross, surpassing all the stars in splendour, world renowned, exceeding dear unto the hearts of men, holier than all things: thou only wert counted worthy to uphold the world's ransom. Sweet the wood, sweet the iron, bearing so sweet a burden: bring aid to this congregation, who are here assembled to celebrate thy praises. Alleluia! Alleluia!
The Antiphon on the Magnificat at 1st Vespers of the Feast

Today is the Feast of the Invention (or finding, from the Latin invenire) of the True Cross to which Our Lord ascended to save mankind from death by sharing in it, later to conquer death by His glorious Resurrection.

In the year 326AD, St Helen of Colchester, Equal to the Apostles, mother of Emperor St Constantine, on her mission to gather sacred relics of the Christian Faith, led an excavation at Jerusalem, on the site of a temple of the pagan goddess Venus. Being directed by the Jew Judas, who himself converted to the true Faith of Christ and is hailed at St Cyriacus, St Helen unearthed three crosses, among them, the True Cross of Our Lord. She also prayed for the recovery of the nails, and found them together with the sign which the Gospels record was secured to the Cross at the command of Pilate. These sacred relics had been hidden by the Jews near to the Holy Sepulchre of Christ in a vain attempt to conceal the Truth and diminish the effect of the Passion of the Lord. The pagans had profaned the site with temples to their false gods to add further insult.

In order to determine which of the crosses was the True Cross of the Lord, St Helen, under the direction of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint Macarius, took each of the crosses, one by one, to a woman who was extremely sick. The first two had no effect but she was immediately restored to wholeness when they brought the third. In the same manner, a man who had just died and was to be carried away was taken instead to the crosses and, upon being taken to the third, was restored to life. Thus, this third cross was hailed as the True, Precious, and Life-Giving Cross of Christ, and was venerated by Ss Macarius and Helen, and the crowds of the faithful who flocked there upon having heard the news.

The Cross was divided into two portions, one of which was sent to Emperor St Constantine, and the other of which was left in Jerusalem, where much of it remains to this day in the Church of the Resurrection of Christ, (also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre).

Over the centuries, fragments of the True Cross have been sent to churches in various parts of the world where they are esconced in altars and venerated in reliquaries by the faithful throughout the world.

We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Thou alone excellest in stature all the cedars of Lebanon: for on thee the Life of the world was hanged, on thee was Christ victorious, and death over death did for ever triumph. Alleluia!
The Antiphon on the Benedictus

Monday, May 14, 2007

Prayer for the salvation of Russia

The exchange after a recent post reminded me of the history of ROCOR praying for "the Orthodox episcopate of the suffering Church of Russia". The "suffering", of course, would not usually be used but was inserted because of the situation in that land over the last century. There is a piece on this on the ROCOR website.

It doesn't appear in our newer prayer books, but in looking at one of the older prayer books, I found this wonderful prayer. I've seen it before but don't remember having paid it much attention. It is no longer used but it used to be inserted after the Augmented Litany at the Divine Liturgy, where there is provision for petitions for specific needs. I read it aloud just now and began to choke up. I suppose it's because of hearing more about the atrocities that happened to the Russian people. I just thought I'd share it here in the run-up to Thursday.

O Lord Jesus Christ our God: accept from us, Thine unworthy servants, this fervent supplication, and, having forgiven us all our sins, remember all our enemies that hate and wrong us, and render not unto them according to their deeds, but according to Thy great mercy convert them: the unbelieving to true faith and piety, and the believing that they may turn away from evil and do good. By Thine all-powerful might, mercifully deliver all of us and Thy holy Church from every evil circumstance. Free the Russian land from the cruel godless ones and their power; hearken unto the painful cry of Thy faithful servants who cry unto Thee day and night in tribulation and sorrow, O our most merciful God, and lead their life out of corruption. Grant peace and tranquility, love and steadfastness, and swift reconciliation to Thy people, whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy precious Blood. But unto them that have departed from Thee and seek Thee not, be Thou manifest, that not one of them perish, but that all of them be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth; that all in harmonious oneness of mind and unceasing love may glorify Thy most holy Name, O patient-hearted Lord Who art quick to forgive, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Canonical Communion: Webcast

This is just a quick "heads up" to folk who don't already know that the proceedings in Moscow this Thursday, the Feast of the Ascension, at which full canonically normal relations will be restored in the Russian church, are to be broadcast live on Russia Today. According to the ROCOR website, the first event is to be the ceremonial reception of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, which is scheduled for 9.15a.m. Moscow Time. Presumably the coverage will begin before then.

You may wish to watch depending on your time zone.

Friday, May 11, 2007

His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II is not dead

It would appear that, while news of Patriarch Alexei's death has been spreading rapidly, the Patriarch himself seems to be under the impression that he is, in fact, alive.

That they may be one, as we are One

The day fast approaches. Since my reception into the Orthodox Church last year, I have heard much about the difficult history of the Church since the Russian revolution of the early 20th century, and of the upcoming restoration of normal relations between the Church in Russia and the Russian Church Abroad. I have read and conversed and learnt a fair amount, and have received e-mails telling my why reunion is right, why it is wrong, why now is the right time, why now is the wrong time, which are the "true" and "genuine" Orthodox churces, and which are Orthodox in name only. I have seen people leave my parish and diocese, and seen the tears shed.

Now that is past and gone. Those who, in their heart of hearts, could not see this as anything but bad have now left. We must continue to pray for them and ask them to do the same for us, in charity, and not a sense of smug pride that we are right and they wrong. Many who remain have concerns but also have faith, and they trust our bishops. There is still some sadness. It seems that one of our convents will keep true to its declaration that it would leave us when the day comes. Let us pray that this is the last of the divisions and that both those who have left and those who remain may now get past the upset of the past few years. This seems to be the message of the emotive statement of Fr Pimen Simon.

Deo volente, on Thursday of next week, the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ, when the human nature which He fully possessed, raised from the jaws of death, was raised gloriously into the heavenly state, the Russian church will once again be one. Our cup will be a common cup, we will share in full Eucharistic Communion at the Lord's Banquet. I cannot wait. I was updating our parish schedule of services recently, and saw that we are to take part this year in the pan-Orthodox pilgrimage to St Winefride's well at Holywell. We had Fr Dcn Joseph from the cathedral at Ennismore Gardens in our congregation on Sunday just gone. There is a real sense that we are fast approaching the fullness of relations with our Orthodox brothers and sisters. It is a lovely feeling. I get the sense of the Ascension here, of God bringing that which was fallen into himself and restoring it to wholeness. In the same way as our human nature, He is restoring the unity to the Orthodox Church that it perhaps had not maintained to the best of its ability, through human failings in Russia and a lack of willingness to forgive outside of Russia. The Soviet days are behind us and Christ is making all things new. And what better a place could be found to host this wondrous event than Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, itself a symbol of the resurgence of Orthodoxy after the attempts of the godless authority to suppress the Faith of Christ?

I'm extremely excited about the whole affair. Please continue to pray for our hierarchs and our people as we enter this joyous feast of Ascension and once again enjoy the fullness of the Catholicity of the Church.

In the tender mercy of our God, whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us, to shine upon those in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

from the Benedictus

There is to be a live webcast of the services on Russia Today. The greeting of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus is to take place at 9.15 a.m. Moscow time. It would be wonderful for as many people as possible to know about this so do spread the word.

O Master all-good, watch over Thy flock and all the children of the Russian Church Abroad, that we may bring about the structuring of our Church in a manner well-pleasing to Thee. Grant us the spirit of wisdom and understanding; instill in our hearts the spirit of the fear of God, the spirit of piety and zeal for the glory of Thy holy Name. Guard us against all temptations, stumbling-blocks and divisions, that, bound together, one to another, by the bond of love for Thee, our Master, we may without hindrance perform the work of our ministry for the edification of the Holy Church as the one Body of Christ. We pray Thee, O greatly Merciful One: hearken and have mercy!

O good Shepherd, Who hast promised to gather Thy scattered sheep into a single flock, put down scandal and division within the Church; all who have strayed from Thy path do Thou lead to repentance and a knowledge of the Truth, and return them to Thy fold; and confirm us all in the Orthodox Faith and the doing of Thy commandments. We pray Thee: hearken and have mercy!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Feast of St George

Cultivated by God, thou hast proved to be a most honoured cultivator of piety, and thou hast gathered for thyself sheaves of virtues; for having sown in tears thou reapest in joy, and having suffered with blood, thou hast received Christ. And by thine intercessions, Saint George, thou grantest unto all forgiveness of sins.

St George! St George for England!
Clear rings the ancient cry;
St George! St George for England!
Who dares to do and die?

The fiery cross has called them
From the lonely Highland glen,
And Cambria's lovely vales resound
To the tramp of marching men.

From Erin's shimmering island
They cry is still "They come!"
And Tara's sacred halls resound
To the music of the drum.

They have left the dead unburied,
And the marriage feast delayed
Till Belgium's wrongs are all avenged,
And the Huns' mad march is stayed.

They come from sunny Devon,
From Derby's vales and rocks;
Left are the pen, the loom, the plough,
Deserted are the flocks.

And St George is fighting for them,
While Heaven's vast Hosts, as one
Shall watch by them, and fight for them,
Till victory is won.
Mary Booth

A happy and blessed feast to all celebrating today, especially those in England or of English descent.

St George, Great Martyr, pray to God for us!

The Dormition of the Mother of God

In giving birth thou didst preserve thy virginity; in thy dormition thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos. Thou wast translated unto life, since thou art the Mother of Life; and by thine intercessions dost thou deliver our souls from death.

In the Dormition icon is depicted the Jewish priest Athonius (also rendered Jephonius), who, wishing to dishonour the Mother of God, tried to overturn the bier during her funereal procession procession, only to have the Holy Archangel Michael descend and sever his hands off with his mighty sword. Athonius then repented, prayed immediately to Christ for forgiveness, and had his hands restored to him. He experienced a conversion to the Faith of Christ and openly professed it to his peers. According to St John the Wonderworker in this book of his, the result of this was that the newly-converted Athonius received a Martyr's death. However, I cannot find this element of the story in the account of St John the Divine.

Whence comes he story of Athonius's martyrdom? Is he recognised as a Saint? If so, when is his feast? I can find a number of references to him by googling but only as part of the the story I've recounted here and not with reference to a feast day or a troparion or anything like that.

Many thanks for your help.

Monday, April 30, 2007

New Website

The Diocese of Sourozh has a pretty, new website.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


There's a wonderful video here from St Paul's Church, Houston. I thought I'd share because it is quite moving.

The link is a direct link to a .wmv file and will initiate download.

Monday, April 16, 2007

On Silence

Just some thoughts (PDF) recently added to the parish collection.

Monday, April 09, 2007


May you all have a happy and holy Paschal season, filled with the blessings of God!

Paschal Epistle

Christ is Risen!

Rejoicing in the Risen Christ, the Source and Fulfilment of our faith and salvation, I sincerely greet the Right Reverend Hierarchs, the all-honourable priests-concelebrants, and the God-loving children of the Russian Church Abroad, with the world-saving feast of Holy Pascha!

Paschal joy is first of all the joy of the Church. We each experience the Resurrection of Christ and we know that we must celebrate Pascha in a renewed state of soul in order to feel our own resurrection with the Lover of man, for only in this way is our participation in the feast expressed, as the Apostle Paul writes:

For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I Cor. 5:7-8

I wish everyone such participation in the celebration of Pascha, with the words of St Gregory the Theologian: 'Let your whole life be renewed, let all of your actions be
renewed: thus a person is renewed in spirit, thus the day of spiritual renewal is honored.'

The Lord creates each person as His friend; and this friendship becomes more close at the time of our baptism, when we enter His Church. Every person is a friend of God, as St Lazarus is called in the Church hymns; and this friend of Christ has lived (been present) in each one of us, at one time or another: he has lived (been present?) through love, through constant prayerful communion and friendship with Him. Sometimes this has happened with people in their childhood, and sometimes later, but at sometime this friend of the Creator has lived in the heart of each of us. Over the course of time this friend in us dies.

Nevertheless, we do not become despondent, and in worshipping now the Resurrection of Christ, we worship hope, for when the Saviour died on the cross, when it seemed that everything was finished and the tomb was sealed, it was then that the Lord resurrected.

Our hope is that there is no end for man, that each of us will resurrect not only in the future life, but also here on earth; that each of us can resurrect from the abyss of sin to a renewed, good, Christian life, for the Lord is stronger than death. He conquered it by His Resurrection and in the miraculous resurrection of Lazarus, and with our desire and active yearning for Him, He can perform this miracle in our heart, in our life.

While exchanging the Paschal kiss with you now, dear fathers, brothers, sisters, and children of the Russian Church Abroad, I prayerfully desire that this friend of Christ might resurrect in the heart of each of us, that we might be renewed and become better and draw near to our Risen Saviour!

I greet all the God-preserved Russian people with a triple kiss, rejoicing that, although “Hell is king over mortal man, it is not for ever,” as we read in the Canon on Holy Saturday. What do these words mean? This means that hell continues to exist, but, glory be to God, it will not reign forever over man, and everyone who actively strives for God, piously communes with Him in the Mysteries of the Church, and struggles with his weaknesses according to his strength, will be delivered from the power of hell thanks to the three-day Resurrection of Christ, will overcome the effects of the Soviet period, will be drawn towards Christ, will return to his historic roots, will be reborn and renewed. May the holy New-Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, who shed their blood which became the seed for the genuine rebirth of all the ends of the Russian Land, be our intercessors before God for this Paschal grace of renewal. To be included in the process of Her gradual rebirth, and to help in it—is our duty before God, the Church, and history. The saints who shone forth in our Russian Land and our pious forefathers, who lived according to the ideals of Holy Russia, summon all of us to this great work by their personal example. The much-suffering Russian people call all of us to this great work. The Risen Lord has called us to this work! May He strengthen all of us before the approaching events, which will serve for our resurrection with Him, and the establishing of peace and unity in the Local Russian Orthodox Church.

I prayerfully desire that all of you may spend these joyful days in health and prosperity, in spiritual joy, experiencing the mighty power of the Perfect Good and Divine Beauty, illumined by the Light of the Resurrection of Christ, Whom the darkness of this world cannot overcome!

Truly Christ is Risen!

With Paschal joy in the Risen Christ and asking your prayers,
+ Metropolitan Laurus
First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad
Pascha, 2007

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I was having a discussion about monasticism recently with a friend. I was explaining that Orthodox priests are either married or monastic. (There are cases where economy has been applied so that we do have some unmarried priests who are not monks but they are the exception rather than the norm). My friend asked how that works in practice, as surely priests whose parishes are spread far and wide cannot properly serve their parishes if they are all living together in community, miles away.

Of course, I hadn't actually mentioned anything about living in community: I had merely mentioned monasticism, which doesn't of necessity have anything to do with community. Indeed, the English word monastic comes from the Greek monachos, which means solitary one. My friend has seemingly been exposed to the same sort of ideas that I was in my Anglican days.

Monasticism was always explained by those outside the monasteries as living in community, serving God together as part of a community. That was more or less it. Even when objections were raised by some of the more Evangelical Anglicans that this was merely a form of escapism from living in the world, the only rebuttal was that these people find living in community to be beneficial. I can sympathise with those objections if this is the only explanation that is given to those who raise them. There was never any explanation of monasticism in connection with the purpose of the Christian life: theosis. Monastic life is simply a more intense and focussed form of the Christian life, the way of shedding the temptations of the flesh, the world and the devil.

This is a great contrast that I have seen since having become Orthodox. Indeed, it is only since having become Orthodox that I have come to understand what monasticism is properly about. It is about dedicating oneself entirely to one's salvation, and to full union with God, sharing in the divine nature, as St Peter tells us is our aim in this temporal, fleeting life. The cares, pleasures and frivolities of this life are shed by the monastic, in favour of a life of stability, constant conversion to God, prayer & fasting, and the Sacramental life of the Church.

The kalendar of Saints of the British Isles from its Orthodox era is riddled with the names of hermits who adopted this monastic lifestyle, which shows the idea that eremiticism is a purely Eastern understanding of monasticism for the fallacy that it is.

Yes, there is cœnobitic monasticism as well. This is a wonderful thing and is perhaps the form of monasticism with which most unchurched people are familiar. In this form, the monk is still in one sense alone, still striving for his theosis, but is doing so surrounded by others who are striving for the same thing. The temptations that face the hermit are somewhat lessened, as there is a sense of human accountability to and encouragement from, his brother monks, and all under the spiritual direction of the Abbot. The monk still has his cell where he communes with God, but joins his brother monks for prayer and labour. They do indeed live in community, taking their turns in cooking, cleaning, &c. but this is incidental to the purpose of their monasticism.

The equation of monasticism with mere communal living is not healthy for monasticism, in my opinion. This is neither its purpose nor the aim of those who follow that way, and on the day that this mindset infiltrates their way of life, monasticism will have been seriously compromised!

Some words from St Benedict:

It is recognised that there are four kinds of monks.

The first are the Cœnobites: that is, those who live in a monastery under a Rule or an abbot. The second is that of the Anchorites, (or Hermits), who not in the first fervour of conversion, but after long trial in the monastery, and already taught by the example of many others, having learnt to fight against the devil, are well prepared to go forth from the ranks of the brotherhood to the single combat of the desert. They can now, by God's help, safely fight against the vices of their flesh and against evil thoughts singly, with their own hand and arm and without the encouragement of a companion. The third and worst kind of monks is that of the Sarabites, who have not been tried under any Rule nor schooled by an experienced master, as gold is proved in the furnace, but soft as is lead and still in their works cleaving to the world, are known to lie to God by their tonsure.

These in twos or threes, or more frequently singly, are shut up, without a shepherd; not in Our Lord's fold, but in their own. The pleasure of carrying out their particular desires is their law, and whatever they dream of or choose this they call holy; but what they like not, that they account unlawful.

The fourth class of monks is called Gyrovagi (or Wanderers). These move about all their lives through various countries, staying as guests for three or four days at different monasteries. They are always on the move and never settle down, and are slaves to thir own wills and to the enticements of gluttony. In ever way they are worse than the Sarabites, and of their wretched way of life it is better to be silent than to speak.

Leaving these therefore aside, let us by God's help set down a Rule for Cœnobites, who are the best kind of monks.

The Holy Rule of St Benedict, Chapter 1

Monday, April 02, 2007

Crux Fidelis

Faithful Cross! above all other

one and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peer may be;
sweetest wood and sweetest iron!
sweetest weight is hung on thee.

Bend thy boughs, O Tree of Glory,
thy too rigid sinews bend;
for awhile the ancient rigour
that thy birth bestowed, suspend,
and the King of heavenly beauty
on thy bosom gently tend.
Verses from Crux Fidelis

I stumbled across this photograph on the internet and this hymn instantly came to mind. I felt that it was too good not to share. I truly love this time of year.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Protester at Westminster Abbey

I wasn't quite sure how to feel earlier this afternoon. I was watching the service at Westminster Abbey to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, and being thoroughly moved by the whole thing (well, most of it anyway, sans a particularly strange piece of music that I described elsewhere as sounding a little like something from Porgy and Bess but without the style).

At the confession, one of the invited guests began to protest about the whole affair, about the presence of black descendants of Africn slaves at the service being "a disgrace to our ancestors", and so forth, and making a general nuisance of himself, while at the same time ruining what was for many people a time of great healing and progression.

Now I never quite know how to feel about these things. I am of mixed race, with both white European and black West Indian ancestry. While I was singing one day the fabulous Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing, a friend heard me and said to me that he felt ashamed of what his ancestors had done to my ancestors. I pointed out that I was ashamed of what my ancestors had done to my ancestors, and that I was in no position to feel bitterness about this.

I lived in the Caribbean from the age of 8 years until I was 15. We were taught in great detail about the slave trade in our history lessons at school. Every day on our way to school, we saw the plantations where the slaves would have worked. We played on the remains of the buildings that they would have been whipped into building. We heard the tales of elderly people who remembered in their young days hearing the tales of elderly people who had experienced the atrocities of slavery themselves, and who were left to fend for themselves when the slave trade came to an end and they no longer had a master who felt any obligation to provide for them. Some of the more benevolent masters didn't see their former slaves go hungry, but in time they all went home to England. What purpose was there to stay now that their businesses had ceased to exist?

While I was living there, I was "white", and had abuse hurled at me because of that. When I moved back to the UK, suddenly I was "black", and the only racist abuse I have had was on one occasion where a lady at my bus stop told me to go back to Iraq, which managed to successfully elicit laughter more than any sense of intimidation.

My only real experience of racism, therefore, has been from black people towards people of lighter complexion (whether white or not), and so perhaps I'm being a little judgmental about our friend who felt the need to express himself the way he did at the Abbey today. I don't know. I do feel that the time has now come, though, where we need to let go of this bitterness and focus on our unity and our salvation. We are only hurting ourselves by harbouring these ill feelings which are contrary to the Christian Way and stunt our theosis.

Slavery is still happening. Would working towards putting an end to this not be a better focus of our efforts than protesting in church services?

I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for the virgers and others at the cathedral. In deliberately and persistently disrupting a church service this man was committing a criminal act and should properly have been escorted out of the Abbey with force if necessary, especially because of the Presence of Her Majesty. However, that would have perhaps caused more damage than anything else given the sensitivity of the occasion and the nature of his protest. "White virger throws black man out of Abbey at Abolition service" is perhaps not the sort of headline that the Abbey was looking for. They were seen to be trying to calm him down and reason with him, and he was seen to be rejecting their efforts and heard to be threatening violence. Only then was he escorted outside. I think that they handled it extremely well, given the circumstances, and the service went on.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Holy Week & Pascha again

I am very much looking forward to this Pascha and the run-up to it. I missed it last year because of the unpleasantness that was going on with me at the time, and the year before that I wasn't even Orthodox, and was only taking my first tentative steps into an Orthodox church. Now I am an altar server and am awaiting that week with eager anticipation, hoping to immerse myself completely into the Mystery.

One thing that I cannot wait to experience again is the service of Holy Unction. I have experienced it only once and it was one of the most moving things that I have ever been through. You see, there was part of the service where we knelt and my parish priest said prayers. The significance of this isn't immediately apparent unless you understand that we Orthodox generally do not do that. We stand and sing our prayers with full voice. The contrast is unbelievable and the words moved me to tears.

I am also excited about processing outside in the dead of night, singing at the tops of our voices, 'Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life!'

As for Holy Thursday and Friday, I have never experienced them and so will probably be overwhelmed yet again. Does anybody have any expeirences to share and any pointers about what to expect?

Holy Week & Pascha

Here are the services at my church for Holy Week and Pascha. If anybody reads this and decides to join us, please let me know and I shall be happy to play host to you.

Dates given are those in the Church calendar. The dates in brackets show the corresponding dates in the civil (Gregorian) calendar for ease of reference. It is the bracketed dates that you need to enter in your diary.

Palm Sunday - the Lord's Entry into Jerusalem
Sunday, 19th March (1st April)
9.30 a.m. Hours and Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom

Great and Holy Wednesday
Wednesday, 22nd March (4th April)
7.00 p.m. Service of Holy Unction

Great and Holy Thursday
Thursday, 23rd March (5th April)
7.00 p.m. Hours and Typica

Great and Holy Friday
Friday, 24th March (6th April)
3.00 p.m. Vespers and Burial Service of the Lord

Great and Holy Saturday
The Annunciation of the Lord to the Theotokos

Saturday, 25th March (7th April)
2.00 p.m. Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St Basil followed by Holy Baptism

then, on that night,

The Celebration of Holy Pascha
9.00 p.m. The Acts of the Apostles
11.00 p.m. Paschal Matins, including outdoor procession, followed immediately by the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, the first Liturgy of the Resurrection.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


A Service of Light to be used before Vespers

The service begins in darkness, with only enough light for the Officiant to see the text of the antiphon. If celebrated in the oratory, the altar candles alone are lighted. A large, unlit candle is placed in the midst of the sanctuary or some convenient place.

The Officiant intones:
V/. Blessed be God, + Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
R/. And blessed be His Kingdom, now and for evermore. Amen.

The Officiant chants the antiphon:
Now that the darkness gathers, let the Dawn of Righteousness arise in our hearts, O Lord: that on us, who give Thee humble thanks at the ending of the day, Thou mayest look with favour as we pay our evening worship unto Thee.

Here the great candle is lighted. The other lights beginning with those before the icons are lighted from the great candle, while the Officiant continues:

The day is Thine and the night is Thine: grant that the Sun of Righteousness may ever abide in our hearts, to drive away the darkness of evil thoughts.

If this service is said in the Oratory, the deacon sets, and the priest blesses, incense. The priest then censes the Cross, Altar, great candle, Icons and congregation. Otherwise, incense may be offered in a stationary burner. In the meanwhile, the "Phos Hilarion" is sung:
O Gracious Light, pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven, O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed! Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing Thy praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Worthy art Thou at all times to be praised by felicitous voices, O Son of God, O Giver of Life, and to be glorified through all the ages!

The Lord be with you.
And with thy spirit.

or, if led by a layman:
(O Lord, hear my prayer.
And let my cry come unto Thee.)

Let us pray.

We give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, Who hast preserved us throughout this day, and unto Thee do we pay our vows for protection through the coming night. Bring us in safety to the morning hours, we beseech Thee; that so Thou mayest at all times receive our praise. Through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, Who with Thee and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, God, world without end. Amen.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the world, Word of the everlasting Father, by Whom all things were made and are preserved; we beseech Thee that Thou wouldest take us under the shadow of Thy mercy this night, neither suffer us to be troubled by the phantasies of Satan; but grant that we may behold the light in darkness, O Thou Who art the Light eternal, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest, God, world without end. Amen.

May the infinite and ineffable Trinity, the + Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, direct our life in good works, and after our passing through this world, vouchsafe unto us everlasting rest with the righteous: grant this we pray. O eternal and almighty God. Amen.

The Officiant immediately intones the opening versicles of Vespers. If this service is celebrated apart from vespers, it is concluded thus:
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the purity of the most blessed and ever-Virgin Mary, the sign of the Holy + Cross, the might of the Lord's Passion, the guardianship of the holy Angels, and the intercession of the Saints, stand between us and all our foes, both visible and invisible, and keep us from all sin, and from every peril to soul and body, now and in the hour of our death. Amen.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Attende, Domine, et miserere!

Hear us, O Lord, have mercy upon us!
for we have sinned against Thee.

To Thee, Redeemer, on Thy throne of glory:
lift we our weeping eyes in holy pleadings:
listen, O Jesu, to our supplications.

O Thou chief Cornerstone, Right Hand of the Father:
Way of Salvation, Gate of Life Celestial:
cleanse Thou our sinful souls from all defilement.

God, we implore Thee, in Thy glory seated:
bow down and hearken to Thy weeping children:
pity and pardon all our grievous trespasses.

Sins oft committed now we lay before Thee:
with true contrition now no more we veil them:
grant us, Redeemer, loving absolution.

Innocent, captive, taken unresisting:
falsely accused and for us sinners sentenced,
save us, we pray Thee, Jesu, our Redeemer.

I love The Lent Prose. We sang it on Ash Wednesday every year at all but the last of my former Anglican parishes, and it really set the tone for Lent. Many of you will remember that I went through a very difficult time this time last year and was hardly getting out of the house. This meant that I seldom got to church, and missed all of the Paschal celebrations. Well, I did venture out once, and was a little naughty in going to the main Sunday Mass at the Catholic church of the Holy Name of Jesus, where the entrance antiphon was, yes, The Lent Prose, sung beautifully in Latin, with the verses being done by the choir and the congregation joining in full for the refrain. (As an aside, the congregation was made up mostly of elderly locals and students who live nearby. They were not people who came from afar because of their interest in that musical style. Which just goes to show that the idea that plainsong is difficult is simply a lie. Give the people the music and a strong lead, and they'll join in with full voice, as this congregation did for most of the plainsong of the Mass).

It may be something small, but I have figured out what does it for me. It's the feeling of genuine pleading on the mercy of God that comes with the line "have mercy upon us" in the refrain. Anybody who is familiar with this hymn will understand what I mean. There really is the sense that we are upon our knees, striking our breasts and imploring God to show us his favour despite our unworthiness.

I miss this.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Christ the Saviour Monastery in Rhode Island, perhaps more commonly referred to as Christminster, is a Benedictine Monastery under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Its Abbot, Dom James (Deschene) was the Prior of the community of Our Lady of Mount Royal, under the pioneer of the Western Rite, Abbot Augustine (Whitfield), under whose observance the Mount Royal tradition continues as much as possible.

Christminster is a small community, in keeping with the reality of much of Orthodox monasticism in the West. However, strength of spirituality and success of monastic purpose do not reside in numbers. They enrich the spirituality of many by being one of only a handful of Orthodox monasteries to support Oblates which, by its nature, is not an activity that is very high profile, but which is the source of great spiritual benefit to many on their journeys of salvation.

The community also has plans to found a humble means for assisting in the training of Orthodox clergy to serve in our Western Rite communities, which is one area where, sadly, our existing seminaries fail us, despite their exceptionally good work in other areas.

I am pleased to learn that some parishes under the Patriarchate of Antioch have begun to run Oblate programmes but I must admit that it seems a little out of place detached from any sort of monastic foundation. Time will tell how this will develop.

Please remember Christminster in your prayers.

St Benedict on Lent

The mode of a monk's life ought at all times to favour that of Lenten observance. Since few, however, are capable of this we exhort every one in these days of Lent to guard his life in all purity, and during this holy season to wash away every negligence of other times. This we shall worthily accomplish if we restrain ourselves from every vice, and give ourselves to tearful prayer, to reading, to heartfelt sorrow and abstinence.

In these days of Lent, therefore, let us of our own accord add something to our usual yoke of service, such as private prayer, abstinence from food and drink. Let every one of his own will with joy of the Holy Ghost offer to God something above the allotted measure, that is, let him deny his body in food, drink, sleep, talking, or laughter, and with spiritual joy await the holy feast of Easter. On this condition, however, that each one inform his abbot what it is that he is offering, for what is done without leave of the spiritual father will be reckoned presumption and vain-glory, and merit no reward. All things, therefore, must be done with the approval of the abbot.
The Rule of St Benedict, chapter 49

Saturday, February 24, 2007


I know that we're only a few days into Lent, but it seems especially meaningful to me this year. I think it's because this is the first year that I have actually taken it seriously. My spirituality and understanding of the purpose of the Christian life has drastically changed and grown in recent times, and the increased focus on the primary purpose of our life in Christ - our striving towards sanctification and deification - is something of which I realise all the more now just how much I fall short.

We had the Ash Wednesday Rite here at the house, followed by the Divine Liturgy of the day. It was very intimate and at the same time quite aweful. For the first time, the imposition of ashes actually meant something quite significant to me, as I intended to immerse myself in the opporunities that Lent provides. How much I shall have successfully done so come the end is something that I do not yet know, but the physical reminder of my mortality and the need for a focus on the life to come was very haunting indeed.

I have begun to make my way through Pilgrim Road: A Benedictine Journey through Lent, which is quite light but at the same time has led me to look a little further at myself and some of my traits that I had previously not noticed, or about which I hadn't much bothered. I'm glad because some of these things, while seemingly innocent, are actually not as harmless as they at first appear.

So yes, I have finally succumbed to pressure and jumped on the Lent book bandwagon. Has anybody else found some publication useful during the past for Lenten reflection, or perhaps this year for the first time? I'd certainly be interested to read more, and may well take recommendations for future years. Please do share.

May you all have a blessed and holy Lent.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lenten Epistle

Here is the Lenten Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan LAURUS, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad:

Reverend Fathers, Dear in the Lord Brothers, Sisters and Children:

I send my heartfelt greetings to all of you on the arrival of the salvific period of Great Lent, the time designated for our inner self-examination. The Holy Church summons us towards this, that we purify ourselves with augmented prayers and fasting, that we illumine ourselves with the reading of spiritually-beneficial books and approach our God and Creator, our Heavenly Father and Closest Friend, Who invites us into his Kingdom, the Kingdom of Love, Peace, Mercy and Light.

Our Lord Jesus Christ says:

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:14-15

And also:

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Matthew 5:23-24

So, dear in the Lord fathers, brothers, sisters and children, in order that our prayers, labours of fasting and repentance be pleasing to God and that they gain for us the absolution of sins and the renewal of our inner strength, we must be at peace with our neighbour.

In fact, how could our prayers, fasting and repentance be a pure sacrifice before God if they emerge from hearts that are filled with hatred against others? We must read the Lord's Prayer often: 'Our Father… forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.' By keeping enmity within our hearts, how dare we utter these words of the Lord's Prayer? Would not our prayer then remain a hollow sound? Would we not be lying brazenly before God? We often hear the exclamation during divine services: 'In peace let us pray to the Lord; Peace be unto to all.' These words demand of us that we approach prayer having first made peace with everyone, so that we stand before God without anger or malice. Or, when the Holy Church prepares us for the worthy participation in the Divine Liturgy, she also reminds us of reconciliation and love as necessities for our fruitful communion with God and each other in the Mystery of Communion. 'Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.' In the ancient Church, in witness to this mutual love, Christians who prayed during Divine Liturgy kissed one another; now this is performed only by the priests within the altar, while all others, as they hear this exclamation, must establish love and peace for all within their souls. How dare we, fathers, brothers and sisters, perform or pray during Divine Liturgy with hostility in our hearts, and approach Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour, Who, as He was crucified, prayed for His enemies? We will truly enter into communion with God only when we expel from our hearts wrath and wickedness.

St Anastasius of Sinai recounted the story of one monk who led his life in sloth and disregard for monastic rules, who during his final moments felt special spiritual joy. The other monks were amazed at this and asked him what brings him such joy. The dying monk responded thus: 'I watched as the holy angels shredded the lists of my sins, for though I lived carelessly and slothfully, I never condemned anyone, never remembered the evils of others.'

And so, reverend fathers, brothers, sisters and children, as we remember the testament of our Saviour, the call of the Holy Church, and as we immerse ourselves in the spiritually-beneficent Lenten time by taking the example of the Holy Fathers, let us strive especially to prevent enmity, hatred and anger amongst ourselves, and instead let peace, love, trust and other Christian virtues eternally abide among us. Let us try in our earthly lives fulfill in deed fulfill the instructions of Apostle Paul to the Christians:

Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.
Ephesians 4:26

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
Romans 12:18

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21

And may the Lord help us in these holy days.

Once again I greet you all with the Great Lent and prayerfully wish every one of you reconciliation with God in His image, which is reflected in our neighbours. Let the purified heart of each one of us become the Life-Bearing Tabernacle from which the Resurrected Lord will shine forth. Let everyone see in our eyes and in our lives this Triumph of Christ over evil, over sin and over everything horrible in this world. Greeting the Pascha of Christ in this way will be the finest way to preach the truth of Orthodoxy. In this bright state, I hope, we shall approach the canonical actions which will serve to the reestablishment this year of peace and unity within the Local Russian Orthodox Church.

May this be within the souls of each one of us. Amen.

With love in the Lord, I beseech your prayers,

+ Metropolitan Laurus,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia