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

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Now the Day is Over...

Many moons ago, I got a Gmail account. For reasons now no longer important, I abandoned it and switched to a new Google account and it was this second account that I used to create my blog, almost five years ago now. Then I switched back to the ogirinal account about a year ago, so have been juggling two Google accounts: one for e-mails, Youtube, and just about everything else that is part of the Google empire, and another for my blog. While it is no great hardship, this has been incredibly tedious for me as it limits the things I can do if I want to blog or keep my e-mail account open and signed in.

However, in updating my blog to a custom template earlier today (a process since reversed) I discovered that, in the intervening year, a new feature has been intriduced, allowing me to transfer my blog to a different account. So that is precisely what I have done. I am decomissioning this version of the blog with this final post and from now on, my blog will live at this location. If you would please update your links accordingly, I'd be very grateful.

The fact that the blog has been transferred to a different account means that I shall lose all of my followers, so if you are one of the followers of this blog (see right-hand column), or indeed are not but would like to be, please do not forget to add the new location to the blogs that you follow. Thank you.

Unfortunately, in uploading the new template earlier, I failed to first transfer my widgets across, which means that I lost all of my links to favoured sites and blogs. I have tried to recontsruct the lists from memory to the best of my ability but do let me know of any omissions and please do not be mortally offended if yours is among the omitted sites.

With that, I say goodbye to this blog in its current manifestation and hope to continue to have the privilege of boring you all at the new location. :-)

Holy Scripture and the Church

Christianity is not an ideology that can be learnt from internalising texts. It is a way of being and of living with an ultimate purpose. It isn't for nothing that the early Christians referred to it simply as The Way. More on this from St Hilarion the New Hieromartyr.

Kamilavka tip to Daniel.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Order of Deaconess: Liturgical Thoughts

St Phoebe of Cenchreae, by the hand of Suzanne Schleck

O Lord and Master, Who didst not reject women who were willing to offer themselves, insofar as is meet, to minister in thy holy houses, but didst receive them into an order of ministries; do Thou also bestow the grace of thy Holy Spirit upon this thy handmaid who desireth to offer herself unto Thee, and fill her with the grace of the diaconate, as Thou didst bestow thy diaconate upon Phoebe, whom Thou didst call to the work of ministry. O God, grant that she may blamelessly remain in thy holy houses, diligent in appropriate and prudent conduct. And prove thy handmaid perfect so that she, standing at the judgement-seat of Christ, may receive the worthy reward of her good conduct. Through the mercy and love for mankind of thine only-begotten Son, with Whom Thou art blessed, together with thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
- From the rite for the ordination of a deaconess

There are differing thoughts within the Orthodox Church on the subject on the order of deaconess and its revival. I have sympathy with a number of them but discussion of those matters isn't really the purpose of this post. Rather, I just find a little liturgical exploration interesting to bring some clarity on exactly what it is that we are talking about when we refer to deaconesses.

Byzantine practice has always drawn a distinction between the forms of ordination to minor orders (chanters, readers, and subdeacons), and those to major orders (bishops, priests, and deacons). Here are some of the differences.

Major orders are given inside the altar and within the context of the Divine Liturgy, at the point appropriate to the particular order concerned. So bishops are ordained after the Lesser Entrance, in time for the hierarch to be able to take his place at the cathedra/presbyterium. Priests are ordained at the Great Entrance, in time to take part in the Liturgy of the Faithful, specifically at the consecration and distribution of Communion. Deacons are ordained immediately after the anaphora, just before the Litany of the Lord's Prayer: just before the time when a deacon would re-arrange his orar to take up the practical assistance of the distribution of Communion.

By contrast, ordinations to minor orders take place outside of the altar and in a context separate from the Divine Liturgy.

Ordinations to major orders always involve the invocation of the divine grace which is absent from minor ordinations. This is considered an important distinction between cheirotonia (the laying on of hands to confer the Mystery of Holy Orders) and cheirothesia (the laying of hands for the setting apart of the candidate for particular service within the Church). Here is the example from the ordination of deacons:

The divine grace, which always heals that which is infirm, and supplies that which is lacking, ordains N., the most pious subdeacon, to be a deacon. Therefore, let us pray for him, that the grace of the All-Holy Spirit may come upon him.

This invocation is absent from minor ordinations.

In major ordinations, this invocation is followed by two prayers of ordination, while there is only one prayer of ordination in minor orders.

Finally, those in major orders receive Communion in order within the altar while those in minor orders receive Communion outside the altar, with the laity.

The reason for my listing the above is that we have an extant text of the ordination rite of deaconesses dating back to the 8th century, and on each of these points of difference, the rite has the characteristics of an ordination to major orders. The ordination of a deaconess takes place within the Divine Liturgy (at the same point as that of a deacon), inside the altar, the divine grace is invoked, two ordination prayers are used, and the deaconess receives Communion inside the altar, receiving the chalice from the hands of the bishop and replacing it herself upon the Holy Table. This last point is itself significant for, as anybody familiar with altar service will know, the minor clergy, (with the exception of the subdeacon), are not permitted to touch the Holy Table or to lay anything upon it. The rite also mentions the vesting of the new deaconess in the diaconal orar.

Before we are too hasty in drawing firm conclusions from this - especially the temptation present within certain quarters to suggest that all major orders at one time included women - it should be pointed out that, while there is every mark of major orders here, there are also differences between this rite and the rite for the ordination of deacons.

Here, for instance, is the invocation of the divine grace from the ordination of a deaconess:

The divine grace, which always heals that which is infirm, and supplies that which is lacking, ordains N., beloved of God, to be a deacon. Therefore, let us pray for her, that the grace of the All-Holy Spirit may come upon her.

You will notice that there is no reference to the candidate for ordination already being a subdeacon. It appears to be assumed that she is a laywoman being ordained directly to this order. For no other order do we have any parallel rite such as this for a female equivalent, so it appears that the order of deaconess does indeed stand alone and is not part of a progression through the orders.

Secondly, while two ordination prayers are used, they are not the same prayers as those used to ordain a deacon.

The third, and most significant, difference concerns the "Dance of Isaiah". In major ordinations, the candidate is led around the Holy Table three times, each time prostrating himself before it and the bishop, and venerating it by kissing its four horns. This symbolises his marriage to the service of the Holy Mysteries at the Table and it draws on the imagery of the similar threefold circling of the marriage table by the bride and bridegroom at the wedding service. In fact, the same hymns are sung on both occasions. This is entirely absent from the rite for the ordination of a deaconess, indicating that this ordination is not to service in the altar. This limitation also seems to be hinted at in the second of the ordination prayers, quoted at the beginning of this post, specifically in the line, "insofar as is meet".

I'm not sure that we can draw any definite conclusions from an ordination rite in isolation from other scriptural, historical, and doctrinal study, and I would resist any temptation to do so, but I do think that this is an interesting exercise to challenge many preconceptions and assumptions that we may make.

The text of the ordination rite that I have appears in Women and the Priesthood, edited by Fr Thomas Hopko. It includes interesting perspectives from Orthdodox writers and is well worth a read.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

On Righteous Anger

When anyone is disturbed or saddened under the pretext of a good and soul-profiting matter, and is angered against his neighbour, it is evident that this is not according to God: for everything that is of God is peaceful and useful, and leads a man to humility and to judging himself.
-St Barsanuphius the Great

What can I say in response to this other than to repeat the protest of the disciples when the Saviour told them that in order to inherit eternal life, the must eat of his Body and drink of his Blood? 'This is a difficult teaching. Who can accept it?'

The truth is that I have no response to this. I do not understand it. When our hierarchs and priests teach and practise things that we know are contrary to the saving Faith, it causes pain and confusion, and yes, sometimes anger, because we know that what they are doing is wrong, and we know that they know that it is wrong, and yet they do it anyway. So how are we to respond to that? The anger is detrimental to our spiritual well-being. It eats away at the soul and affects our relationship with God and creation, and when we recognise this it is very easy to become resentful of those whose actions have elicited these feelings in us. Yet only we have the power to choose to leave it behind. God will strengthen us to do so but not against our will. We must shed the anger and bitterness and seek the peace and love of Christ in our hearts.

But does this mean that we are to remain silent? As Chistians, baptised into the death and resurrection of the Christ, and one with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, are we to stand idly by, humbly remaining silent while our beloved brethren are led astray? The Saviour tells us:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Matthew 7:15

How do we retain our spiritual composure and our focus on the path of humility while simultaneously facing the reality of the dangers that confront us even within the life of the Church? I do not know. Perhaps it is a balance that we are not called to find. Perhaps it is not for most of us to challenge the heresiarchs, and perhaps we should leave it to those who have the spiritual gounding to face them, to the Ephesian St Marks and the Studite St Theodores of today. But what if St Mark of Ephesus and St Theodore the Studite, and others like them, had said the same thing?

This is a difficult teaching. Who can accept it?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

O Canada!

Above is a video of the Great Entrance from the church of St Elias in Brampton, Canada. This is an Eastern Catholic church which serves in English and Ukrainian.

It may seem unusual for me to be posting a video of a church in the Unia, especially a Ukrainian church, given the history and current relations, but the truth is that, all of that aside, they actually serve the Liturgy with care and devotion, faithful to the inherited liturgical tradition, and seemingly without idiosyncratic innovation. See the way they do the Great Entrance, for instance. It is just so beautiful and doesn't grate or distract in the way that some of my Orthodox experiences have done. The only thing that the servers didn't do was to reverence the High Place but this is likely barely noticeable to the people. I am not a liturgical perfectionist as I have lived through the results of that mentality in my past church life, and it is unhealthy. There are many instances where what is ideal is simply not practical or even possible in a given situation and economy must apply. I believe that a humble and contrite heart is the most important thing where prayer is concerned.

Yet in corporate, liturgical prayer, I firmly believe that the second most important thing is obedience and faithfulness to the liturgical tradition. Making up one's own practices may be personally satisfying, but it is a distraction to the worship and prayer of others, and I think that I sometimes do not appreciate as much as I ought my parish priest's training at the hands of monks and his adherence to that spirit of monastic obedience. I wish we would more often see less of a particular priest's preferences coming through in the Liturgy and a simple adherence to the rubrics and spoken words that we have received. I know that this is another borrowed term from Catholics of a certain variety but I think that there is a great deal of sense in the maxim, "Do the red; say the black." When a Catholic church serves the Orthodox Liturgy more faithfully than the Orthodox, I believe that there is a lesson to be learnt.

Incidentally, I have been in friendly contact with the priest and some of the people at St Elias', and have been a fan of their Youtube videos for some months now, since I first discovered them. I have found them to be incredibly friendly and generous and, if I were to accept the doctrinal claims of my Catholic friends, would probably migrate to Canada just to be able to make this my parish.

I leave you with a processional moleben.

Romania's Neglected Orphans

I saw this report on the news yesterday evening. I was moved to tears. When the next sad story came on, I had to leave the room. I don't have much to say about it other than to ask you to please read it, or at least watch the video, and pray. Googling "care for Romanian disabled" or "care for Romanian orphans" will reveal ways that those who wish and are able can help financially.

Please pray.

Western Rite Office Online

Archbishop John of the Holy Synod of Milan has given his blessing for part of the results of his translation work of the ancient English offices to be published online. While, at the time of writing, we in the Russian Church Abroad are not in communion with the Milan Synod, we have been in the past - indeed, their hierarchy came from us - and many of us feel a sense of kinship with fellow moderate Christians who confess the Orthodox Faith while avoiding extremism in either its ecumenist or isolationist forms. There is also some overlap between their Western Rite history and ours. I understand that these offices are currently used in the ROCOR Diocese of Eastern America, (specifically at the Holyrood Hermitage in Florida), with the blessing of His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion of New York.

It is only a legitimate, Orthodox Western Rite, prayed in the spirit of Orthodoxy and using Orthodox prayers, that I find personally beneficial and which I feel to be proper for use by Orthodox people for their salvation and deification. May this translation of the ancient offices of Britain be a rich addition to what is currently available to those of us who wish to pray in the manner of those Saints who have worked out their salvation and walked these islands before us.

The texts and music may be found here.

Snow had fallen, Snow on Snow

The recent bad weather has caused problems for many people, myself included. I visited a friend for his birthday last week and found myself waiting for a bus in the city centre for an hour, while it snowed. When one did eventually arrive, and everybody at the bus stop, (who, by this point, had got to know each other quite well, having moved beyond frustration to laughter), piled onto it, it only went so far along the journey, leaving us to walk the rest of the way home in the wind and snow. On the way home from the Liturgy on Sunday, I got to the bus stop to be confronted with a sign saying that all bus services to my area had been withdrawn until further notice. I know that others have suffered much worse.

In light of this, I thought I would capture and share some of the happier effects of the snow. Here are some photographs I took yesterday, although we have had some more snow since then and it is snowing as I type.

Our garden

And again

Catprints in the snow. I'm sorry I didn't manage to get a photograph of her actually playing in the snow. It's so deep that her legs completely disappear. It's the strangest sight.

The Amazing Adventures of Perpetua, the Intrepid Snowtiger

I made a snowbishop. I haven't named him yet and a quick gance out of the window reveals that his nose has now fallen off, (I hear that this is a common problem among hierarchs during the winter months). It was pointed out to me that I have forgotten to give him a staff but I don't want to give the neighbours further cause for concern.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Have Chalice, Will Travel

Fr Jovan Plamenac of the Serbian Orthodox Church felt that the need to travel all day to get to and from Patriarch Pavle's funeral should not disrupt the regular cycle of worship of his people, who had become accustomed to attending the Divine Liturgy and receiving Communion daily.

Therefore, he sought his bishop's blessing and served the Liturgy on the train. More photographs here.

Kamilavka tip to Fr Milovan of the Again and Again blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Western Rite in Britain

His Grace Archbishop Mark of Great Britain has given his blessing for the establishment of Orthodox communities on the territory of his diocese using the Western Rite forms of service blessed for use in ROCOR. The decision of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops is that all Western Rite communities are to have stavropegial status, which is to say that they fall under the omophor of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of New York, the First-Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad. However, in compliance with canonical norms, the local bishop must give his blessing for their establishment, which, in his benevolence, Vladyka Mark has granted.

This means that the missionary study society of St Eanswythe, based in Bournemouth, which has so far existed to aid the study of Orthodoxy primarily by non-Orthodox people under the guidance of an Orthodox monastery, will become the missionary Parish of St Eanswythe. While based in Bournemouth, the parish will run a satellite mission in London, with the Divine Liturgy/Mass being served occasionally in the chapel of the Holy Royal Martyrs, which is the lower church at the cathedral in Chiswick.

The primary form of service will be the English Liturgy. This has been adapted from forms of service with which western Christians will be more familiar but doctrinally and liturgically corrected with the blessing of the Holy Synod of Russia. Occasionally the Divine Liturgy of St Gregory (Roman Rite) may also be served in its Sarum variation, being an ancient Orthodox Liturgy used in Britain.

Patriarch Pavle: Memory Eternal

His Holiness Patriarch Pavle +2nd November, 2009

His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia reposed in the Lord yesterday, the 15th of November, being the 2nd of November in the Church calendar.

The Serbian Church has long been a friend of the Russian Church Abroad. Indeed, it was the Holy Synod of the Serbian Church which, in 1922, gave its blessing for the establishment in Serbia of a synod of bishops for exiled children of the Russian Orthodox Church in light of the persecution of the Church in Russia. In light of this and the decree of Patriarch St Tikhon calling upon exiled Russian Orthodox faithful to organise themselves as best they were able in the circumstances, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was born.

After puppet patriarch Sergius rescinded the decree of St Tikhon under Soviet duress - an action never accepted by ROCOR as being of the Church - many of the other local Orthodox churches gave their allegiance to Sergius and turned their backs on ROCOR. While the Church in Russia is now free and those other churches are once again in full communion with us, we must never forget that the Serbian Church was one of a handful of churches which were not tempted by the political ease of pacifying the Soviet state, and throughout all of those difficult years remained faithful to the path of spiritual freedom sought by the exiled Russian people, and later by the many people of western lands who came to the Faith through the unwavering confession and witness of ROCOR.

His Holiness Patriarch Pavle continued this loving tradition of the Serbian Church throughout his life and himself concelebrated with clergy of the Russian Church Abroad, sharing a common chalice with our people - a sign of true oneness of heart and mind, brotherly love, and piety among those who share the life in Christ. For this, our Church Abroad shall ever be grateful. We mourn the loss on earth of a true brother and friend, and pray for his repose in the loving arms of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Metropolitan Hilarion has sent his heartfelt message of condolence.

In a blessed falling asleep, grant rest, O Lord, to the soul of thy servant, the Patriarch Pavle, and make his memory to be eternal!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

St John on Abbreviating Divine Services

The Church typicon is a guidebook for training and schooling in prayer and the more it is adhered to the more benefit is derived from it. In the case of the inability to fulfill all that is laid out in the typicon, we must fulfill all that is in our power, preserving its general structure and main content. It is necessary, on the one hand, to fulfill the principal characteristics for a given service unchanged in its composition and that which maintains its identity separate from others. On the other hand, we must try as much as we can to fill in those parts of the service, which, changing according to the day, express the meaning and reason of the commemoration of the day's event.

Divine Services combine in themselves prayer, which is lifted up to God by the faithful, the receiving of God's grace in communion with Him, and the instruction of the faithful. The latter consists of teaching through reading in the divine services and hymns, catechism, and instruction in the Christian life. The divine services in their composition contain all the fullness of the dogmatic teaching of the Church and set forth the path to salvation. They present invaluable spiritual wealth. The more fully and precisely they are fulfilled, the more benefit the participants receive from them.

Those who perform them carelessly and who shorten them by their laziness rob their flock, depriving them of their very daily bread, stealing from them a most valuable treasure. The shortening of the services which comes about through lack of strength must be done wisely and performed circumspectly in order not to touch that which should not be tampered with.

- St John, Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco

Anecdotal evidence on the internet seems to suggest that there is currently a shift in the English-speaking Orthodox world towards a greater faithfulness to the liturgical tradition, with a large number of parishes seeking to perform the services of the Church more fully. Insofar as this is reflective of reality on the ground, I welcome this.

There is so much beauty and meaning to the services that is lost when they are abbreviated, and for those of us who live the services and who, in some weeks, find that the Sunday services are our only sustencance for the week, the excessive abbreviations that are employed in some places really are detrimental to our spiritual wellbeing. Sometimes, the antiphons are almost obliterated and some of the litanies are entirely omitted, or the petitions are garbled while the people make continuous responses so that they do not even hear the words. I once saw an online discussion where a priest advocated the omission of the Beatitudes because he claimed they were devoid of meaning particular to the feast or Saint being celebrated, when the only reason he thought this was because it was his custom to perform them in their abbreviated form. Had he done them in full, with all of the appointed troparia interspersed between the verses of the Beatitudes on each day, he could not have failed to appreciate that this portion of the Liturgy is replete with the meaning of the celebration of each day of the calendar, and serves to focus the minds and hearts of the faithful. What is happening when our clergy are establishing abbreviations and then citing the negative effects of these abbreviations to justify omission?

I am delighted to learn that St John wrote on this subject. The entire piece may be read here.

My own parish, until earlier this year, worshipped in a private home. As such, we adopted a couple of abbreviations in order to reduce the pressures that we exerted on the family which generously hosted us each week. Now that we have our own church, we are serving a fuller cycle of services and we hope to offer those services in their fuller forms. We now do the Ninth Hour followed by Vespers every Saturday, and the Synaxarion is read immediately before Vespers, introducing the celebration of the new day. At the Sunday Liturgy, we have never abbreviated the first and second antiphons as many churches do, and we plan to restore the troparia on the Beatitudes by the end of this year. The other main abbreviation is that we omit Psalm 33 after Communion. We have spoken about restoring it and it has been included in our new choir and altar books to make it an easy transition if ever we do. Perhaps in time we can restore this as well, as it is a beautiful hymn of praise to elevate people's hearts after Communion, and gives the clergy sufficient time to consume the remainder of the Holy Things.

If this restoring trend is indeed widespread, I hope and pray that it may continue, that in all things, God may be glorified.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Priest Attacked and Chased by Racist Thug

My mother was black. My father was white. While he was born in England, his mother and father were Irish and French, respectively. The result of the European influence on my appearance means that, while most people can see that I am obviously not predominantly black, they also do not easily identify me as mixed white/Afro-Caribbean but intead mistake me for Asian. As I am also bearded and often wear a cassock, people make the additional assumption that I am Muslim.

This often elicits various reactions from people, from warm but misguided acceptance, through wonder and perhaps a little discomfort, to outright hostility. This isn't usually too bad in Manchester, which is very cosmopolitan and where one would not expect to walk through the city centre without passing people of various ethnic backgrounds and in various forms of cultural dress, (although one lady at a bus stop did once tell me to go back to Iraq). I used to take this for granted until I had cause to regularly be in other parts of the country which are much less ethnically and culturally diverse, and even some of Manchester's suburbs can be fairly scary.

I worked in Chester for a year and was approached by a lady handing out leaflets for the mystery plays. She said, very slowly and deliberately, 'Stories from the Bible. It will help your English'. My friend (who was very embarrassed) and I thought this was rather amusing but waited until the lady had gone before we started laughing. Yet, on another occasion, as I was crossing the bridge at the railway station in the same city, I was passed by a young man travelling in the opposite direction. He was speaking on his mobile phone and I overheard him tell his interlocutor that a terrorist had just walked past, clearly referring to me! I have been on the receiving end of a fair amount of anti-Muslim abuse. It seems that so convincing is my Asian appearance that Asian men often approach me in public and greet me, assuming that I am Muslim. When I politely explain that I am Christian, most give an embarrassed smile and switch to English, apologising or wishing me well, as happened yesterday. However, on more than one occasion, they have become angry and abusive, presumably assuming that I am a convert from Islam to Christianity.

This can be very intimidating at times, and I sometimes fear for my safety and occasionally resent being made to feel this way. It is for this reason that I was filled with anger when I began to read this story. It is an actual realisation of precisely what I fear happening to me from day to day. Here is a Christian priest, dressed as a Christian priest, beaten with a tyre iron, chased for three blocks, and pinned to the ground. His offence? He got lost and asked for directions. It turns out that his sat-nav had given him wrong directions, and that the person he asked for help, after attacking and chasing him, telephoned the emergency services claiming to have captured a terrorist who was trying to rob him. He later changed his story to say that the "terrorist" had sexually assaulted him. However, the sat-nav corroborated the priest's story of having been lost.

The one saving grace of the entire story is that the priest refused to press charges, showing the forgiveness that Christ taught. Part of me was put to shame when I read this, as his response was so different from my own feelings. Yet I still am not at the point where I can so easily lay aside the way I feel about this. The priest is truly a holy man, and perhaps this just shows how much further I have to go. I just feel sick about the whole affair.


Friday, November 06, 2009

Historic Western Rite Photographs

In light of recent developments (to follow within a few days), I thought it would be rather timely to share these photos for interest's sake.

Archbishop Alexis (van der Mansbrugghe) serving the Western Rite Liturgy with Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh - most likely the Roman Rite Liturgy of St Gregory

St John of Shanghai and San Francisco serving the Divine Liturgy of St Germanus of Paris - Gallican Rite

St John serving the Divine Liturgy

St John at the Cathedral of St Irenée in Paris

St John at the consecration of Bishop Jean-Nectaire (Kovalevsky) of Paris - the first known Western Orthodox bishop since the schism of the 11th century

The vesting of Bishop Jean-Nectaire by St John, at his consecration

Bishop Jean-Nectaire serving the Divine Liturgy of St Germanus of Paris

Bishop Jean-Nectaire

Bishop Jean-Nectaire

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Can Anyone Identify This?

Above is a photograph of what appears to be a portion of a statue. It has clearly been cropped from a larger picture, and depicts a subdeacon carrying a fan. I nicked it from one of the Facebook groups for subdeacons but the member who supplied the photograoh no longer has, and no longer remembers where he got the original.

If anybody knows what it is from or can supply a photograph of the full thing, I'd be very grateful.

Thank you.

Ecumenical Conference at Nashotah House

Photo courtesy of Smilodon Photo, LLC

This comes from the set of photographs of the recent event that has been reported in the Anglican and Orthodox blogospheres. I wonder what was being said at the moment captured in this one.

Questionable Gifts

The dome of Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow

We have all been given presents that we wouldn't usually have bought for ourselves. Sometimes these are things that we love but the existence of which would never have occurred to us. At other times, they are things that perhaps don't find favour with our own personal tastes. In the latter case, there are usually ways of avoiding embarrassment and hurt feelings. It is usually no hardship to put an item on display among others when the benefactor visits, only for it to be quietly put away later, or to read at least part of a book and later comment on it.

What do you do, though, if the gift is an item that is actually offensive to all that you hold to be decent or true? What if it is a wall-plaque that expresses political ideas that you find reprehensible? Or perhaps an icon that expresses heresy? Could you, in good consience, display somethig like that in your home or place it in your icon corner among holy things?

The interior of the dome of Christ the Saviour is a notorious example of iconography that is doctrinally questionable, (to be restrained). Although this type of iconography expresses a clear contradiction of scriptural and patristic teaching, and has been condemned by a local council of the Russian Church (for it was in Russia that it began to spread, and was not a universal problem), and although recent years have seen such icons being corrected, when Christ the Saviour Cathedral was rebuilt in 2000, what is supposed to be God the Father was represented in the icon in its dome, just as it had been in the original cathedral. It is no secret that Russia went through some very difficult times, to say the least, during the last century. It seems that the rebuilding of Christ the Saviour was more than just the building of a church. It was a powerful symbol of the triumph of the Russian Christian identity over the godless authority that had tried to subdue it, and so was intended as an encouragement to the Russian people. Therefore, it was built as an exact replica of the cathedral that had previously stood on that site, and questions of the Orthodoxy of the decor seem to have taken second place.

Worthy a cause though this was, I must admit that this approach doesn't sit well with me, and I wonder what others think of the transference of this to the decor of private homes, the contents of icon corners, and so forth. Is there a distinction to be drawn between temporarily tolerating such things at home in order to avoid hurting a person's feelings and displaying them as permanent fixtures in public places of worship? My inclination is to say that, yes, there is a difference, and that, depending on what it is, I may be willing to lay my own concerns aside in order to spare the feelings of a well-intentioned giver. Having said that, if given a copy of the icon in that dome, or another similar to it, I'm not sure that I could bring myself to give the appearance of venerating it.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Calendar and Conscience

I do not intend for this to be a polemical post. My views on the use of the Meletian calendar by Orthodox Christians have been made known many times and in a number of places. Let it be sufficient for me to say here that, as things stand, I do not believe that it is in keeping with the life of the Orthodox Church.

I have been struggling with this matter for some months, especially since having been ordained as a reader. On the one hand, I wish to remain faithful to the canonical discipline of the Church while at the same time I do not wish to cause offence to my brothers and sisters - some of whom are good friends - who ask me to participate in services on the Meletian calendar.

I politely declined a kind invitation over the summer and simply attended, only vesting for Communion. Then, more recently, I was invited to be the reader at another Liturgy and initially declined politely. Then, realising that the Saturday reading would be the same regardless of the calendar used, I decided to be accommodating and read. On the kliros, however, it soon became apparent that the Saints being commemorated were not those of the day, and that I was expected to sing what were essentially the wrong troparia and kontakia.

In the end, and after some discussion with my parish priest, I have concluded that it is perhaps best for me not to participate in services on the Meletian calendar beyond my presence in the congregation. All of the other reasons aside, as its core, I feel that the unilateral adoption of this calendar by a substantial minority of Orthodox Christians has been the source of immeasurable and completely unnecessary division and pain within the Body of Christ, and I'm afraid that I could not maintain a clear conscience were I to take part in its use. This is no judgement on those who have been able to harmonise these concerns or who, out of necessity, are faced with a choice between the Meletian calendar or nothing.

Therefore, in keeping with the received custom of the Orthodox Church, and in obedience to my bishop, who has publicly expressed his thoughts about the Meletian calendar, I will only serve on the Orthodox Church calendar.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Harvest of the Sea

Christ our God, to You we offer,
hymns, and songs, and psalms of praise,
for the rich, abundant blessings,
which You give us all our days.

At creation, humankind was
brought from earth and given grace,
fed by Eden's flowing rivers
bringing life to every place.

At the hands of the Forerunner,
You were pleased to be baptised,
and submerged in Jordan's waters,
hallowing its flowing tide.

From the lake your gathered foll'wers
drank the riches of your words,
so their thirsting souls found quenching,
and their hearts to faith were stirred.

Weary and disheartened fishers,
toiling long with empty nets,
had them filled with great abundance,
thus their hearts on You they set.

May we, too, with faith and labour,
reap the harvest of the sea,
filled with shoals of teeming creatures,
multiplying fruitfully.

On this field send forth your blessing,
for the sea obeys your will,
Who the swelling, raging waters,
calmed with simple: "Peace, be still."

So to You, O Christ our Saviour,
from the islands of the sea,
with the Father and the Spirit,
through all ages, glory be. Amen.

Copyright © 2009, Michael Astley
Tune: Sussex

Dedicated to the Greater Glory of God, and the Revd Mark Rowland. Feel free to use for services, with attribution.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Parish

Here is a short photo collage showing a little bit of the life of my parish. I hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I enjoyed compiling it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Church in Wallasey - part 2

Taking up the Cross of Christ, thou didst pass from royal glory to the glory of heaven, praying for thine enemies, O Holy Martyr Princess Elisabeth, and with the Martyr Barbara, thou didst find everlasting joy; therefore pray ye on behalf of our souls! - Troparion, tone 4

Hello, friends!

Please forgive my absence from the blogosphere over the past few weeks. I have been very busy with church stuff in the run-up to our move into the new church. There were practical matters to do with the building and lots of fun to do with things musical and liturgical. It all paid off. We had a splendid and blessed day on Saturday, with parishioners, friends, and visitors coming from Chester, Manchester, Oldham, Liverpool, Southport, and Stonyhurst, in addition to the local residents and visitors from the other local churches, and members of the local council, who came for various parts of the day.

It was really a joyous time in the life of our parish, and now that there is a little more canonical normality than only a few years ago, we were able to welcome Fr Pancratios of the Constantinople patriarchate and Fr Gregory of the Antiochian church, to concelebrate. Father Paul preached a very moving sermon about the life of St Elisabeth and our need to follow in her footsteps in giving of our time, our love, and our resources for others, especially in a time when the world teaches us to climb over everybody in order to get what we want. Daniel from St Aidan's gave up his day to be with us, for which I personally am very grateful because he was a great help. The Cross-procession went exceptionally well.

The building is still being worked on. The iconostas has yet to be finished and the floor sealed but we're slowly getting there. That should all be finished by this week. There are some photographs on the diocesan gallery. Please ignore the ones of the fat reader. :-)

Now we just have to prepare for the visitation of the relics of St Elisabeth on the 1st of August. What a marvellous way to start life in a new church!

Holy New-Martyr Elisabeth, pray to God for us!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Patronal Festival

In that meekness, humility, and love, which made their abode in thy soul, thou didst diligently minister to the suffering, O holy Passion-bearer Princess Elisabeth, and with faith didst endure suffering and death for Christ with the Martyr Barbara. With her do thou pray for all that honour thee with love! - Troparion, tone 2

The 18th (5th) of July is the feast of St Elisabeth the New Martyr, whose relics are currently in the UK. It will indeed be a blessing to have her relics here for her feast.

It is also the patronal festival of my parish, and the day when we plan to move into our new church. To mark the occasion, we are planning a full day of events to which all are welcome.

The plan is to begin at 10 o' clock in the morning with the Lesser Blessing of the Waters, followed by the Hours and Divine Liturgy. If the weather permits, we shall have a Cross Procession, which is a traditional act of worship for patronal festivals, which involves processing around the outside of the church three times, making four stations, forming the points of the Precious and Life-Givine Cross around the building. All the while, hymns will be sung and prayers offered for the church, the parish, the town, and the departed, while the people are blessed with holy water and the icon of St Elisabeth.

We shall then take a break for lunch (bring and share), then watch some videos of the life of St Elisabeth and the work of the nuns of St Elisabeth's Convent in Minsk. Some of you will probably know the nuns as some of them travel around Europe in a van, selling their wares - icons, vestments, other liturgical accoutrements - and they come to Britain usually twice each year.

We then plan to close the day's events with Vespers at half past three in the afternoon.

There is a flyer here.

I do hope some of you are able to come.

O Thou Who didst proclaim that even if thy disciples were silent, the very stones would cry out, so also grant that this holy house may proclaim Thee and draw all who dwell in this town and county to worship Thee in spirit and in truth. Inflame our hearts with love for Thee that we may offer to Thee ourselves and all Thou hast given us to the glory of thy holy Name. We fervently entreat Thee, O merciful One, hearken and have mercy!
- petition for the founding of a new church, from Augmented Litany at the Divine Liturgy

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Conception of the Mother of God

And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by, saying: Anna, Anna, the Lord hath heard thy prayer, and thou shalt conceive, and shall bring forth; and thy seed shall be spoken of in all the world. - from the Protoevangelium of St James

The feast of the Conception of the Mother of God is perhaps one of the most poorly understood feasts of the Church. This falls on the 8th of December on the Western Rites and on the 9th of December in the Byzantine Kalendar. In either case, it falls approximately nine months before the Nativity of the Mother of God in September. Each year we celebrate this feast and each year somebody asks what it is all about. That people have a yearning to learn more about this part of the Christian Mystery is, of course, encouraging, but it does reveal that it is one of the feasts that is not as readily understood as others.

My suspicion is that this may be particularly true among western converts to Orthodoxy. Many of us who have come to Orthodoxy from western traditions have known of the later Latin teaching of the immaculate conception of the Mother of God, which states:

...the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.

Constitution Ineffabilis Dei, 1854

Whether we come from traditions where this was affirmed or repudiated, we have been affected by it, whether by overenthusastically embracing it or by overzealously throwing out the proverbial baby along with the bathwater.

Yes, we may remember from our days of exploring Orthodoxy that our understanding of ancestral sin is different from the Latin teaching of original sin, and that this means that the Conception of the Mother of God was, in this respect, just like the conception of any other human being. She was conceived in innocence, as indeed we all are, and her freedom from the guilt of sin at the moment of her conception is unremarkable in that respect*. We may know in our heads that this renders the teaching on the immaculate conception meaningless, for it is the solution to a problem that doesn't exist. We may also understand that because we do not believe that the sin of our first parents means that all human beings are deprived of a supernatural grace from the first moment of our conception, the angelic salutation of the Mother of God as being "full of grace" poses no doctrinal problem for us. We do not need to ponder on what is unique to her that could make this so because there is nothing in the nature of man that precludes this.

So where does this leave us?

Well, as a new convert from Anglicanism, I wasn't quite sure. I would get asked the question of my Anglo-Catholic friends, 'If her conception wasn't immaculate, then what was so special about it? Why celebrate it as a feast?' and I would usually not have an answer. Sometimes this was asked out of genuine curiosity. At other times it was asked in an attempt to highlight what they saw as an inconsistency between Orthodox teaching and Orthodox liturgical practice. The argument was that the existence of the feast in the Orthodox kalendar is evidence that we did once celebrate the immaculate conception but later changed for some reason, perhaps in relation to the disdain with which Blessed Augustine of Hippo is held in some quarters of Orthodoxy, and that we are now left with a meaningless feast as a result.

The sad truth is that this is simply evidence of just how much damage has been done by this teaching of the immaculate conception. The actual meaning of the celebration of the Conception of the Mother of God has been overshadowed to such a great extent that it has almost entirely departed from the consciousness of many Christians, who are left unable to see the point of the feast without this later teaching, and who, as a result, perceive that they have to choose between the two extremes of a) fully embracing the immaculate conception and the original sin on which it is based, and b) reacting vehemently against this teaching and refusing to celebrate the feast at all! Neither of these is acceptable to the Orthodox mind.

So where does this leave people who are coming from such backgrounds into Orthodoxy, and are faced with what appears to be an inconsistency between our belief and practice? It is not unreasonable that they may also wonder about this and ask similar questions to those posed by my Anglo-Catholic friends.

What follows is my own attempt at answering those questions.

At the very basis of Christian teaching is the understanding that nature, as we perceive and experience it today, is fallen. It is still inherently good as we are told in the creation story but it suffers from the effects of the fall. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the state of mankind. We experience the effects of the fall in perceptible and unimaginable ways. We die, suffer from ailments, experience pain, hunger, and other discomfort. Some have chemical imbalances causing psychological problems. Our passions are also disordered so that many of us struggle with things that, properly, are a wholesome part of our existence and even theosis: food, properly a source of nourishment and enjoyment, is a temptation in many to overeat or undereat, often with deadly consequences; there are inclinations of the sexual passions to acts outside of the procreative marriage bond; there are inclinations and temptations to misdirect our emotions of anger and so forth, often to the point of violence and murder. These are all effects of the fall that affect us all in different ways and to different degrees. They are all ways in which mankind today is separated from complete theosis, from the full participation in the light, love, splendour, holiness, and life-creating energies of the Holy Trinity.

The Ascended Christ, taking our restored human nature back to the bosom of the Father.

The hope that we have in Christianity is the Incarnation. God became man. He fully took on the human nature in the Person of Jesus Christ, and, in that flesh, shared in our struggles, our sufferings, and grief. He had a physical body, just like ours, and felt pain and hunger and, ultimately, shared in our death. Having released the bonds of those righteous ones in Hades who had died before the Incarnation, He also conquered all those elements of the fall in his glorious Resurrection, while still in our flesh - still fully possessing the human nature. In the Ascension, He took that redeemed and restored human nature back into heaven, once again opening the way for us to follow and this we do, by being grafted into his Body, the Church, through Baptism, and being nourished by his Body and Blood, and through participation in the grace-filled life of the Church.

The post-Resurrection Body of Christ was still human, but what we are called to be rather than what we are. He was truly, physically present, but the Gospels tell us of characteristics that we know ourselves not to have. He appeared, seemingly from nowhere, and just as easily vanished from sight. He even showed the brilliance of what our deified bodies are to be at the Transfiguration on Tabor. We see evidence of this in some cases in the lives of the Saints, as they have, in their advanced states of theosis, even during their earthly lives in some cases, physical characteristics beyond what is the common fallen state of mankind. We hear of healing miracles, incorruptible relics, relics that give a sweet aroma, levitation, and even resurrection from the dead! The Saints truly participate in the energies of God and overcome these effects of the fall. Such is the call of all of us and this is at the very heart of the Christian Faith and, indeed, of our entire lives as Christian people.

Another effect of this fallennesss is barrenness. That the ability to procreate becomes diminished or even ceases in men and women, often after a certain age, is a sign of the separation of mankind from participation in the life-giving energies of God. Yet in the childless, elderly couple, the righteous Joachim and Anna, we see a foretaste, a foreshadowing, of the great Mystery of the Resurrection of Christ. Even before Christ is born, we see something of the effects of his conquering the fall, when the barrenness of his grandmother, the righteous Anna is overcome when the Mother of the Redeemer comes into existence in her life-bearing womb.

It is this that we celebrate on the feast of the Conception of the Mother of God. At different times, through repeated renewal of covenants, and in various ways, God revealed something of Himself to his people of various lands, tribes, and backgrounds. He spoke through prophets, sages, and bards for hundreds, even thousands of years, and, after all of this prophecy and prayer, and hopeful expectation, in the Conception of the Mother of God, we have the first sign of the coming of the One Who Is, Who comes to save us from the fall, from peril, and from death, and Who comes to give life. We see this same glimpse of Christ's triumph over lifelessness in the person of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist John, the last in the line of the prophets before Christ, through whose conception, (celebrated on the 23rd of September), the barren womb of St Elisabeth was opened. It is partly for this reason that it is the Mother of God and the Forerunner who are usually depicted on the Deisis icon.

Deisis triptych by the hand of Aidan Hart.

As with most feasts in the Orthodox Church, the best expression of the meaning of the Conception lies in the prayers and hymns of the feast itself, and is immediately recognisable as part of the restoring, healing, paschal Mystery of Christ.

This is clear from the hymns of the feast in the Byzantine Rite:

Today the bonds of barrenness are broken: God hath heard the prayers of Joachim and Anna. He hath promised them beyond all their hopes, to bear the Maiden of God by whom the Uncircumscribed One was born as mortal man, Who commanded an angel to cry unto her: Rejoice, O thou who art Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee!
Troparion for the Conception of the Mother of God, tone 4

Let the heavens rejoice this day, for Anna hath conceived the Theotokos through God's dispensation, for she hath brought forth the one who is to bear the ineffable Word!
Kontakion for the Conception of the Mother of God, tone 4

By no means is this unique to the east. From the western Divine Office, here is the final psalm appointed to be sung at first Vespers on this feast. Note its joy:

Praise the Lord, O ye servants, praise ye the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord from henceforth and for evermore. From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is to be praised. High above all the nations is the Lord, above the heavens is His glory. Who is like unto the Lord our God? Who dwelleth on high and looketh down on things that are lowly, in heaven and on the earth, Who raiseth up the poor man from the earth, and from the dunghill lifteth up the pauper, That He may seat him with princes, with the princes of His people, Who maketh the barren woman to dwell in a house and be a mother rejoicing over children.
Psalm 112 (The Psalter According to the Seventy)

It seems quite unlikely that this psalm was chosen by coincidence. See also this excerpt from the Mass of the feast:

Let us celebrate this day
whereon piously we say
Mary was conceived.
Begotten is the mother maid,
conceived, created, channel made,
or pardon to the world.
Adam's primeval banishment
and Joachim's own discontent
there find a remedy.
from the Sequence at the Mass for the Conception of the Mother of God.

So it seems to me that the hymns and prayers of the feast in both east and west are replete with the theology of the Conception of the Mother of God as the first foretaste - a prelude - of the great bountines of the Lord's restorative and healing grace of which we can all partake. This is what the Church has celebrated since the establishment of this feast, long before the departure of the west into exploring ways around the problems caused by its understanding of original sin. This feast is a celebration of the grace, love, and bountiful mercy of God, and, without the need for recourse to late doctrinal developments that serve merely to obscure its meaning, Christians have great cause for celebration, prayer, and thankfulness on this day.

Let us all rejoice and praise the Lord, keeping holy day in honour of the Virgin Mary, for whose Conception the Angels are joyful, and glorify the Son of God!
the office/introit for the Conception of the Mother of God

*For those unfamiliar with this distinction, Father Gregory Hallam offers this very good elucidation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shall I Continue?

Once ago, people used to read my blog and comment, and I was part of a small but friendly network of bloggers. Now, I get the odd comment from faithful followers but it isn't what it once was. It may well be that I have readers who just don't post, or it may be that I should never have resuscitated my blog and that it serves little purpose.

If you do read Synaxis and feel that my posting occasional thoughts and things that interest me may be worthwhile, please leave a comment on this post to let me know.

Thank you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Anaphora of St Basil

Once described as "a wonderful rolling tide of divine poetic rhetoric", I shall let this amazing prayer speak for itself.


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.
People: It is meet and right to worship the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit: the Trinity, one in essence and undivided.

Priest: (in a low voice, while the people make the response) O Thou Who art, Master, Lord, God, Father Almighty, adorable, it is truly meet and right, and befitting the magnificence of thy holiness that we should praise Thee, hymn Thee, bless Thee, worship Thee, give thanks unto Thee and glorify Thee, the only truly existing God, and offer unto Thee with a broken heart and the spirit of humility this our rational worship. For Thou art He that hath bestowed upon us the knowledge of thy truth.

And who is sufficient to speak of thy mighty acts? to make all thy praises to be heard, or to declare all thy wonders at every time? O Master of all, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation both visible and invisible, Who sittest upon the throne of glory, and lookest upon the depths, Who art unoriginate, invisible, incomprehensible, uncircumscript, immutable, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our great God and Saviour; our hope, Who is the image of thy goodness, the seal of equal type, in Himself showing forth Thee, the Father, Living Word, true God, the Wisdom before the ages, the Life, Sanctification, Power, the true Light, through Whom the Holy Spirit was revealed; the Spirit of truth, the Gift of adoption, the Pledge of an inheritance to come, the First-fruits of eternal good things, the life-creating Power, the Fountain of sanctification, by Whom enabled, every rational and intelligent creature doth worship Thee, and send up to Thee everlasting doxology, for all things are thy servants.

Yea, Angels and Archangels, Thrones, Dominions, Principalities, Authorities, Powers, and the many-eyed Cherubim praise Thee. Round about Thee stand the Seraphim - one with six wings and another with six wings - and with two they cover their faces, and with two their feet, and with two they fly, calling out to one another with unceasing voices and unending doxologies, singing the hymn of victory, crying aloud, proclaiming, 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 comethin the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Priest: (in a low voice, while the people continue to sing) With these blessed Powers, 0 Master, Lover of mankind, we sinners also cry aloud and say, Holy art Thou, in truth, and all-holy, and there is no measure to the magnificence of thy holiness; and holy art Thou in all thy works, for in righteousness and true judgement hast Thou brought about all things for us.

When Thou hadst fashioned man, taking dust from the earth, and hadst honoured him with thine own image, O God, Thou didst set him in a paradise of plenty, promising him life immortal and the enjoyment of eternal good things in the observance of thy commandments. But when he disobeyed Thee, the true God, Who had created him, and was led astray by the deceit of the serpent, and was slain by his own trespasses, Thou didst banish him, in thy righteous judgement, O God, from Paradise into this world, and didst turn him back to the earth from which he was taken, dispensing salvation for him through regeneration, which is in thy Christ Himself.

Yet Thou didst not turn Thyself away till the end from thy creature which Thou hadst made, O Good One, neither didst Thou forget the work of thy hands, but Thou didst look upon him in diverse manners, through thy tender-hearted mercy. Thou didst send forth prophets; Thou hast wrought mighty works through the Saints who in every generation have been well-pleasing unto Thee; Thou didst speak to us by the mouths of thy servants the prophets, who foretold to us the salvation which was to come; Thou didst give the Law as an aid; Thou didst appoint guardian angels. And when the fullness of time was come, Thou didst speak unto us through thy Son Himself, by Whom also Thou madest the ages; Who, being the brightness of thy glory, and the express image of thy person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, deemed it not robbery to be equal to Thee, the God and Father.

But albeit He was God before the ages, yet He appeared upon earth and sojourned among men; and was incarnate of a holy Virgin, and did empty Himself, taking on the form of a servant, and becoming conformed to the body of our humility, that He might make us conformed to the image of his glory. For as by man sin entered the world, and by sin death, so thine Only-begotten Son, Who is in thy bosom, God and Father, was well-pleased to be born of a woman, the holy Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary, to be born under the Law, that He might condemn sin in His flesh, that they who were dead in Adam might be made alive in thy Christ Himself.

And, becoming a citizen in this world, and giving ordinances of salvation, He removed from us the delusion of idols and brought us unto a knowledge of Thee, the true God and Father, having won us unto Himself for His own people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and being purified with water, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, He gave Himself a ransom to death, whereby we were held, sold under sin. And having descended into hades through the Cross, that He might fill all things with Himself, He loosed the pains of death, and rose again from the dead on the third day, making a way for all flesh unto the resurrection from the dead - for it was not possible that the Author of Life should be held by corruption - that He might be the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep, the first-born from the dead, that He might be all, being first in all. And, ascending into heaven, He sat down at the right hand of thy majesty on high, and He shall return to render unto everyone according to his works. And He hath left with us as remembrances of his saving Passion these Things which we have set forth according to his commandment.

For when He was about to go forth to his voluntary, and celebrated, and life-creating death, in the night in which He gave Himself up for the life of the world, He took bread in His holy and immaculate hands, and when He had shown it unto Thee, the God and Father, and 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, having also taken the cup of the fruit of the vine, and mingled it, and given thanks, and blessed and hallowed it, He gave it to His holy disciples and apostles, 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) 'Do this in remembrance of me, for as often as ye shall eat this Bread and drink of this Cup, ye do proclaim my death and confess my resurrection.'

Wherefore, 0 Master, we also remembering his saving Passion and life-creating Cross, his three-day burial, and Resurrection from the dead, his ascension into heaven, and sitting down at thy right hand, God and Father, and His glorious and fearful second 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 unto Thee, O Lord, and we pray unto Thee, O our God.

Priest: (in a low voice, while the people sing the response) Mindful of this, O all-holy Master, we also, thy sinful and unworthy servants, whom Thou hast made worthy to minister at thy holy Altar, not through our own righteousness, for we have done nothing good upon the earth, but because of thy mercies and compassion, which Thou hast richly poured out upon us, dare to draw nigh to thy holy Altar, and, presenting unto Thee the antitypes of the holy Body and Blood of thy Christ, we pray Thee and supplicate Thee, O Holy of Holies, by the favour of thy goodness, that thy Holy Spirit may come upon us and upon these Gifts here set forth, and bless them and hallow them.

Priest: O Lord, Who didst send down thy Most Holy Spirit on 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 on 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 on 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: Bless, master, the Holy Bread.
Priest: And show this Bread to be itself the precious + Body of our Lord, and God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ,
Deacon: Amen. Bless, Master, the Holy Cup.
Priest: And that which is in this Cup to be itself the precious + Blood of our Lord, and God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ,
Deacon: Amen.
Priest: Shed for the life of the world,
Deacon: Amen. Bless both, Master.
Priest: Changing + them by thy Holy Spirit.
Deacon: Amen. Amen. Amen.

Priest: And as for us all, partakers of the one Bread and of the Cup, do Thou unite one to another unto communion of the one Holy Spirit, and make none of us to partake of the holy Body and Blood of thy Christ unto judgement or unto condemnation, but that we may find mercy and grace with all the Saints, who have ever been well-pleasing unto Thee: the Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Teachers, and with every righteous spirit in faith made perfect.

(aloud) Especially our all-holy, immaculate, exceedingly blessed and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary.
People: O full of grace, all creation rejoiceth in thee!
The angelic hosts sing thy praises with all mankind:
thou hallowed temple, noetical paradise, and the glory of all virgins.
Of thee was God made flesh - our God before all ages - and became a child.
Of thy womb a throne He made: he made thy womb more spacious than the heavens.
All creation rejoiceth in thee, O full of grace: glory be to thee!

Priest: (in a low voice, while the people continue to sing) With the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John, the holy glorious and all-laudable Apostles, Saint(s) NN., whose memory we celebrate, and all thy Saints, at whose supplications do Thou look upon us, 0 God.

And remember all those who have fallen asleep before us in the hope of resurrection unto life eternal, and grant them rest where the light of thy countenance watcheth over them.

Again we pray Thee, remember, O Lord, the Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church, which is from one end of the world to the other, and give peace to Her whom Thou hast purchased with the precious Blood of thy Christ, and establish Thou this holy house, even unto the consummation of the age.

Remember, O Lord, those who have offered unto Thee these Gifts, and those for whom, and through whom, and the ends for which they are offered.

Remember, O Lord, those who bear fruit and do good works in thy holy churches, and who remember the needy; requite them with thy rich and heavenly gifts; give them things heavenly for things earthly, things eternal for things temporal, things incorruptible for things corruptible.

Remember, O Lord, those in the deserts, the mountains, and in the caverns and pits of the earth. Remember, O Lord, all those who continue in virginity and devotion, and in asceticism and a sober way of life.

Remember, O Lord, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and all her royal house, all in civil authority, and the armed forces; grant them peaceful times, that we also in their tranquility may lead a calm and peaceful life in all piety and sobriety.

In thy goodness guard those who are good, and make good those who are evil, by thy lovingkindness.

Remember, O Lord, the people here present and those who for good cause are absent, and have mercy upon them and upon us, according to the multitude of thy mercies. Fill their garners with every good thing, guard their marriage bond in peace and in oneness of mind, rear the infants, train the young, support the aged, encourage the fainthearted, gather together the scattered, and lead back those who wander astray, and join them to thy Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Free those who are vexed by unclean spirits; travel with those that journey by land, by sea, and by air; protect the widows; defend the orphans; deliver the captives; heal the sick. And those that are under trial, in the mines, in exile, in bitter bondage, in every tribulation, necessity, and danger, do Thou remember, O God.

And all those who are in need of thy great goodness of heart, and those also who love us, and those who hate us, and those who have commanded us to pray for them, unworthy though we be, do Thou remember, O Lord our God, and all thy people, and upon all pour out thy rich mercy, granting to all their petitions which are unto salvation.

And those whom, through ignorance, or forgetfulness, or through the multitude of names we have not remembered, do Thou Thyself remember, O God, Who knowest the age and name of each, and knowest every man even from his mother's womb.

For Thou art the Helper of the helpless, the Hope of the hopeless, the Saviour of the storm-tossed, the Haven of the voyager, and the Physician of the sick. Be Thou Thyself all things to all men, O Thou Who knowest every man, his petitions; each house and its need.

Deliver, O Lord, this city and every city and country from famine, pestilence, earthquake, flood, fire, the sword, foreign invasion, and civil war.

(aloud) Among the first, remember, O Lord, our great lord and father, Kyrill, the most holy Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia; and our lord the very Most Reverend Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad; and our lord the Most Reverend Archbishop Mark of Great Britain, whom do Thou grant unto thy holy churches in peace, safety, honour, health, and length of days, rightly dividing the word of thy truth.
People: And all mankind!

Priest: (in a low voice) Remember, O Lord, every bishop of the Orthodox, rightly dividing the word of thy truth.

Remember, O Lord, according to the multitude of thy compassions, my own unworthiness, pardon me every offence both voluntary and involuntary, and withold not, because of my sins, the grace of thy Holy Spirit from these Gifts here set forth.

Remember, O Lord, the priesthood, the diaconate in Christ, and every priestly rank, and put not to confusion any one of us that stand about thy holy Altar. Look upon us with thy loving-kindness, O Lord; reveal Thyself unto us in thy rich compassions; grant us temperate and prosperous seasons; grant peaceful showers upon the earth unto fruitfulness; bless the crown of the year in thy loving-kindness; make schisms to cease; quench the ragings of the nations; speedily destroy, by the power of thy Holy Spirit, uprisings of heresies; receive us all into thy kingdom, showing us to be sons of light and sons of the day; and grant unto us thy peace and thy love, O Lord our God, for all things hast Thou bestowed upon us.

(aloud) And grant unto us that with one mouth and one heart we may glorify and hymn thine all-honourable and majestic name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
People: Amen.