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.