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, May 29, 2009

All that glitters...

I have a great personal devotion to Blessed Seraphim of Platina, and look forward to his official glorification by our synod, (it being my conviction that this will simply be an earthly acknowledgement of something that has already happened in heaven). Having bought the recording of Fr Seraphim's lecture, Living the Orthodox Worldview on CD earlier this year, I have been interested to hear more of him speaking, (having already read some of his books and part of his biography). I was delighted to learn that another lecture, Signs of the Coming of the End of the World, was also available on CD, and even more so when, yesterday, I discovered that it was also available for download.

I have listened to part of it and decided to post some thoughts here. The following is a part of the "question and answer" discussion following the lecture. He is responding to a question from somebody who had been involved in the World Council of Churches, and had shared some of his negative impressions of it as affirming lowest common denominator religion, where we all 'believe in "Christ" in whom we have no common opinion whatsoever'.

This will seem unpolished for a written piece but please remember that it was not originally a prepared presentation. What follows is my transcription of a small portion of what Blessed Seraphim had to say. I was unable to work out the identity of the author of the book on which he comments but that is not of direct relevance here.

...a very interesting man - although he was a little crazy in some ways - but he had in his last few years became very changed. In fact, he said he felt very strange going to church because he felt that the age of the catacombs was about to come back and that we should go underground to go to church. But he, under the impulse of the last year or two of his life, he wrote a book called Three Conversations on Antichrist and the End of the World, which he sets more like a novel on the coming of Antichrist, and he bases it in the 21st century: world wars and there's a great man - a leader - arises and first becomes president of Europe and then by acclamation he's made president of the world for life, and then world emperor. And he reunites everyone under the basis of like a Roman empire, and then decides he has to have a religious division so he calls a world ecumenical council in Jerusalem and there he offers to all people all that they ever desired so that they sort of acknowledge him, bow down to him.

And the protestants have a special academy opened to explore the scriptures from all different points of view and all different kinds of biblical criticism. And the Catholics have, like, a papal institute, or something or other. And the Orthodox are offered in Constantinople, Hagia Sofia is restored and is meant to be a museum of all possible Orthodox antiquities where every kind of beautiful thing which Orthodox ever had is on display in the museum. That is to satisfy the Orthodox people. And after everyone is satisfied we then all bow down and worship him.

Of course that means that you are satisfied with external things, you think this sort of external point of view represents your religion. Anyone who is attracted by glittering censers, incense, and beautiful vestments first of all, of course he will fall down before Antichrist.

What I found most interesting is how this ties in with personal recent events. Within the past week I received an e-mail with a link to an online petition. This was a petition to the European Parliament to make Turkey's admission into the EU conditional upon the return of Agia Sofia to the Church.

I did sign it but I must confess that, almost immediately afterwards, I thought, 'but why?' Would it once again be a parish? Because of past and present regimes, there are barely enough Orthodox Christians in the whole of Turkey to fill that one building. What purpose would it serve? Even if it were returned, how would it be maintained? What, really, is our desire to get this church back? I am not saying that it should not happen but I'm just not sure what I think. (Incidentally, after signing, I realised that I did actually link to the very same petition myself some time back, on this very blog, some four years ago.)

Here we are, investing so much effort into petitioning the European Parliament - to which our government has pledged allegiance although many of us view it with great suspicion - to give us back Agia Sofia, for which nobody can see any purpose other than it being a museum, while those efforts could be spent elsewhere, on our prayers, on our salvation, on helping the poor and needy, on examining our consciences, making confession, on visiting the sick and the imprisoned, (on maintaining pointless blogs?). Yet, nearly thirty years ago, Father Seraphim warned us of this, and told us that our faith is not based on the external trappings alone, beneficial and vital though they are. So, by all means sign the petition, but first consider why. Is it because you believe that this could be a sign of the restoration of the Faith to Turkey and a source of encouragement to those who pray and fight for this, or is it because of a misplaced sentimentality for the external beauty of abygone age? Let Father Seraphim's final words in the above quotation be a warning to all of us.

Blessed Seraphim, pray to God for us!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pentecostal assistance required

I have just prayed Vespers for the Feast of the Ascension. As I was about to start, I picked up the Festal Menaion so I would have all of the necessaries to hand, and realised that the Ascension wasn't actually in there. It finally dawned on me that Ascension would be in the Pentecostarion instead because it falls during the Paschal season but I neither have nor can afford it at the moment. Anyway, I was glad to find that my fairly recent investment in a copy of the General Menaion, (a sort of fill-in-the gaps book for when you don't have the proper texts for specific feasts and saints), paid off, as it has commons for feasts of the Lord, so I just used those instead and adapted the text (mid-chant) where it invited me to. That seemed to work well enough. I'm sure God heard my prayer.

However, Pentecost is just around the corner, and the General Menaion does not have commons for feasts of the Holy Spirit. Is anybody able to help me by pointing me in the direction of the texts online? Thank you.

(Alternatively, you could buy me a copy of the Pentecostarion!)

St Kitts & Nevis

The green of the fertile soil, the red bloodshed of slavery, the black of the ethnic heritage, the golden-yellow sunshine, and the stars of of twin-island nation where I grew up.

I love this:

Here's the national anthem that we sang in assembly almost every day at school.

Perhaps I'll return one day and plant a small Orthodox mission. Who knows? My tan does need a top-up.

Memory Eternal!

With the Saints, give rest, O Christ, to the souls of thy servants, where there is neither sickness nor sorrow, but life everlasting. Thou alone art immortal, Who didst create and fashion man; but we mortals were formed of earth, and unto earth shall we return, as Thou Who madest me didst command and say unto me; For earth thou art and unto earth shalt thou return, whither all we mortals are going, making as a funeral dirge the song: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

My mother's anniversary falls on the 13th of June. Some of you who used to know this blog when it was the Sarisburium blog, may remember my posts a couple of years ago, when I learnt that her death had in fact been suicide. Because she was cremated and her ashes were sprinkled, there is no place that I can visit so I began the tradition in my Anglican days of marking my mother's anniversary each year with a requiem mass. However, this has become an even more poignant time of year for me now that I know the truth behind the scene that I found all those years ago as a child. Many questions have been resolved but many more difficulties have surfaced. My friends and my fellow Christians have been a great help.

The discovery led me, at the end of 2007, to search for my father, whom I had never met as he had left when he learnt that my mother was pregnant. Due to the wonders of Facebook combined with an unusual surname, it took no more than a fortnight for me to track down relatives. While I have gained a brother, and aunts and uncles as a result of this, I learnt that my father had died only months earlier.

On my mother's anniversary, I plan to offer a private reader-service pannykhida in memory of them both. While I know that it will be a week after the soul sabbath, and many of you will already have had your loved ones commemorated then, I would be happy to add to my list the names of anybody else for whom you wish prayers to be offered.

Please would you also pray for me? These discoveries are still quite recent for me and I still carry a fair amount of baggage. June is a difficult time as a result. Thank you.

Just add any names in a comment on this post and I shall remember them.

O God of spirits and of all flesh, Who hast trampled down death and overthrown the devil, and given life to thy world: do Thou Thyself, O Lord, give rest to the souls of thy departed servant, Patrick, and handmaid, Stella, in a place of light, a place of green pasture, a place of repose, whence all sickness, sorrow, and sighing are fled away. Pardon every sin committed by them in word, deed, or thought, in that Thou art a good God, and the Lover of mankind; for there is no man that liveth and sinneth not, for Thou alone art without sin, thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy word is Truth. For Thou art the resurrection, and the life, and the repose of thy departed servant, Patrick, and handmaid, Stella, O Christ our God, and unto Thee do we send up glory, together with thine unoriginate Father, and thy most holy and good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

From East to West: part three

Not my own effort this time but here is a comparison done by Father Deacon Benjamin over at his blog.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Taste of Alexandria

The epiklesis from the Divine Liturgy of St Mark.


The people sing the following prayers slowly and peacefully while the priest and deacon continue in a low voice.

People: We believe, and glorify the Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ: fill our hearts with joy and gladness.

Spare us, O Lord our God. (Thrice).

According to Thy great mercy. (Thrice).

And not according to our sins.

Priest: (in a low voice) Thine own of Thine own gifts we have set before Thee, and we pray and beseech Thee, O good God and Lover of mankind: send down from Thy holy height, from Thine appointed habitation, from Thy bosom beyond human experiment, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy One, the Lord and Giver of life, Who spake in the Law and by the Prophets and the Apostles; Who is everywhere present and filleth all things, working sanctification of His own free will, and not as a minister, upon those He chooseth by His good pleasure: One in essence, manifold in His energies, fountain of Divine gifts: consubstantial with Thee, proceeding from Thee, sharing the throne of Thy kingdom and of Thine only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Look down upon us, and upon this Bread,


Priest: And upon this Cup,

Deacon: Amen.

Priest: And send down Thy Holy Spirit, that He may bless and hallow them, and may act, as God almighty,

Deacon: Amen.

Priest: As the true God of faith.

Deacon: Amen.

Priest: And make this + Bread the Body,

Deacon: Amen.

Priest: And this + Cup the Blood of the New Testament,

Deacon: Amen.

Priest: Of our very Lord and God and Saviour and universal King, Jesus Christ.

Deacon: Amen.

The priest and people immediately make a full prostration. On Sundays and at other times when prostrations are not made in honour of the Resurrection, a deep bow is made from the waist in its stead.

Deacon: Come down, ye Deacons; pray, ye Presbyters.


Priest: That they may be to all of us who participate in Them for faith, for sobriety, for healing, for temperance, for sanctification, for renovation of soul, body and spirit; for participation in blessedness of eternal life and incorruption, for the glorification of Thy holy name, for the remission of sins; so that in this as in all places Thy most holy name may be glorified, hymned, and hallowed, with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.

People: Amen. As it was, and is, and shall be, unto generation and generation, and for all ages of ages. Amen.

The Old Rite - part two

Christ Pantokrator in the Old Rite Church of the Nativity, Erie

In this second post about the Old Rite, I want to share some of the treasures that I have found, some of which I have incoporated into my own devotions. I should add that I'm not sure I could belong to an Old Rite parish, as there seems to be a degree of strictness in the execution of the services and prayers that I find too regimented for my own spiritual growth. I also think that there were some traditions that did need to be revised, such as the praying of the third, sixth, and ninth hours in sequential order before the Liturgy instead of at their appropriate times. What I do like, though, is that, when there is no Liturgy, the ninth hour has portions of the Liturgy inserted and becomes a form of what is more commonly known as the Typika service.

However, there are also many beautiful traditions, and I actually have a great deal of sympathy with those faithful people who, three hundred years ago, having been formed from birth in their faith and spiritual life by these prayers and services, resisted when they were suddenly told that they would have to stop using them in favour of abbreviated versions. I think that those of us who belong to the New Rite really have lost something in not continuing some of these devotions.

The Old Rite bilingual prayer book

Perhaps the most obvious difference lies in the music. The Old Rite maintains the use of Russian chant before it was unfluenced by the west, so it is much closer to Byzantine and even Gregorian chant than the four-part harmonies that many of us know today. Znamenny chant, in particular, can be very beautiful, and some good examples of it can be heard sung by the choir of the Valaam monastery on their various recordings, and I am pleased that there seems to be increasing interest in its use in New Rite churches. One noticeable feature is that the voices in this style of chant are what we in the west would call "untrained", producing a very nasal sound. However, this is authentic to this style of music. The Old Rite chants for the readings are nice but they are quite sombre. I have taken to using them during fasting periods and at funerals outside of the paschal season. (Otherwise, I use the melodic chants from the Carpatho-Rusyn tradition). Compare the almost monotone deacon's petitions during the litanies in the New Rite to the beautiful melodies used in the petitions in this video from the Old Rite Uspenia monastery, (it is perhaps best not to comment on the doctrinally-questionable icon in the ceiling):

Some interesting differences that I have noticed is that some things that are optional today seem to be just part and parcel of the Liturgy: the tropars on the Beatitudes, psalm 33, and I'm sure there are others. Perhaps this reflects our modern-day penchant for abbreviating. Some of the litanies, hymns, and responses are slightly different as well - usually longer than what we have today.

Another difference is the manner of crossing oneself. We New Ritualists are accustomed to pressing our thumb and first two fingers together, with our ring and little fingers pressed to our palm, and crossing ourselves at each invocation of the Holy Trinity. In the Old Rite, they cross themselves in the way depicted still in most icons where a blessing is imparted. The first two fingers are extended, with the middle finger slightly bent, and the Cross is seen as a symbol of the Christ rather than the Trinity. This is reflected in when the Cross is made during services and prayers.

The lestovka, in common use in Russia before the importation of the chotki from Greece, is still the most common form of prayer aid used by Old Rite Orthodox Christians.

One thing that I have personally adopted is the use of the entrance and departure bows when entering and leaving church. These exist in the New Rite as well, and the Jordanville Prayer Book does give the manner of doing them, but this form is greatly curtailed and, as such, these signs of reverence are often ignored completelely, especially in churches outside of the Rusian tradition. The journey to church can be quite hectic for me and I find it very helpful to walk into church and have these prayers to say before I venerate the icons and greet my brothers and sisters. It helps me to make the transition from the hustle and bustle of public transport to a quiet reverence, and the departure bows help me to retain that as I leave to go back into the world.

There are many, many other differences in the forms of worship and execution of the services, many of which may be read about here, (though not without bias). There are a good few websites out there with a wealth of information on the Old Rite. However, if some of these seem acerbic in tone, please remember the persecution that Old Rituatlists have suffered at the hands of New Rite church authorities in the past. I have found it better to find people on the internet and approach them directly. I have found them loving and always willing to explain things to me. Better yetm if you have an Old Rite church near you, (which I don't), why not go and visit?

Cross Processions

A quickie. Is anybody able to help with my questions here? Thank you.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Old Rite - part one

I have recently developed something of an interest in the Old Rite. I find it absolutely fascinating, although I do have mixed feelings about it. However, all in all, I am delighted that it is an ongoing part of the life of the Church.

Some of you will be aware of the differences today between Russian and Greek practice. Russian churches tend to do the three antiphons in full while Greek churches usually replace them as standard practice with the much shorter form of a few verses from the psalms interspersed between responses - a form that is properly only used on feasts of the Lord. Russian churches do the epiklesis in full while Greek churches do a much, much shorter form, (the longer form did appear in some earlier Greek manuscripts but has fallen into disuse there now). Ask Greek clergy about the Litany for the Departed at the Liturgy and you will be greeted with blank stares. The Litany for the Catechumens is often omitted, as indeed are most of the litanies between the Gospel and the Cherubikon. When the Augmented Litany is used in Greek churches, it is seldom augmented - the reason it is called the augmented litany is that this is when special petitions are supposed to be inserted for local concerns: the sick and departed of the parish, travellers, expectant mothers, the newly-baptised, and so forth - these are not added in most Greek churches. I have also neither heard Psalm 33 chanted in its place in Greek tradition churches nor have I seen it in the Greek service books.

These omissions and abbreviations in the Greek church, (and other churches that follow the Greek tradition), are much maligned by the Russian clergy - and rightly so, in my opinion. How can we stand there during the cherubikon, singing, 'let us now lay aside all earthly cares, for we are about to receive the King of all', while simultaneously omitting half of the Liturgy so that we can get home to the Sunday roast or the football match on the telly? It obviously makes sense to some people but I am afraid that my little mind simply cannot comprehend it. The Saints before us entered as fully as they could into the prayer of the Church and it seems to have done them no harm.

But continue thou in those things which thou hast learned, and which have been committed to thee: knowing of whom thou hast learned them.
2 Timothy 3:14

Many - though not all - of these differences are due to a new Greek typikon which was introduced in 1888. It was the revision work of one man rather than a conciliar effort of liturgical scholars and hierarchs of the Church. Yet, it was blessed for use by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and is today most widespread in the Greek parochial (though not the monastic) tradition, although it is still objected to by many Greek clergy, including Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, who has described the changes as "ill-advised" and the new typikon as being "flawed in many places". I should emphasise at this point that my criticism is not of Greek-tradition clergy. They are simply being obedient to the customs that they have been taught and I am sure serve these forms of the services faithfully. It is the customs themselves to which I am objecting.

So why is there such distaste among the Russian-tradition churches for these Greek-tradition practices? The obvious answer is that many of them reflect a will to shorten the services as much as possible. However, I wonder whether there may be something more to it than this. You see, this has happened before, and I suspect that, having before their eyes to this day the lasting effects of the conflict that ensued, the Russian Orthodox people see it as much more prudent to remain faithful to the tradition that they have received, rather than risking stirring up further and unnecessary trouble.

If we were to travel back in time to the 17th century, what we would find would be a situation where the Greek church had simplified and abbreviated its services over time, ridding them of many accretions that clouded the meaning of the services but also of many beneficial elements that aided the participation of the faithful in the Mysteries of the Church. Patriarch Nikon of the Russian church decided that it was time that Russian practice caught up with these changes in Greece. These changes were implemented, and the result is largely what most Orthodox people today are accustomed to experiencing in the churches and regular prayer life - the New Rite. However, these changes did not slip through without considerable oppositon. Some may see a parallel to what happened in the last century in the Roman Catholic church, which would perhaps have done well to learn from the past mistakes of its Orthodox friends. To cut a long story short, those who opposed the changes were anathematised for their disobedience, and have been treated with alternate sympathy and persecution in the intervening centuries. Today, those who remain faithful to the old rite are called Old Ritualists. Sometimes they are referred to as Old Believers but this has often been used as a pejorative term and many consider it offensive.

There has been a significant amount of hurt caused over the years but the anathemas against the Old Ritualists were finally lifted in the 1970s. A number of Old Rite people have returned to the main Russian church and have been permitted to continue using their earlier forms of prayer and worship, and I pray that the poor treatment that they have received in the past may remain a thing of the past, and that this reunification will continue over the coming years.

Bishop Daniel of Erie, ROCOR Old Rite bishop

In order to better facilitate this, in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, there has been consecrated an Old Rite bishop to care for an extra-territorial diocese of Old Rite communities, wherever they may be, and one of the most recent episcopal consecrations in our church, that of Bishop John of Caracas, was performed according to the Old Rite.

One of the most prominent Old Rite parishes to have returned to the mainstreasm Russian church is the Church of the Nativity, on whose website there is a fair amount of information about Old Rite practices. I hope to post a little about these practices myself in the near future but, in the meanwhile, please explore this site and learn more about our brothers and sisters who remain faithful to the old ways.

Through the prayers of the Mother of God, may the rapprochement continue!

Please pray

I have just learnt from Aristibule's blog that two of our ROCOR Western Rite priests are currently in hospital. Fr Michael of St Petroc's Monastery in the Australian diocese and Fr David of Holyrood Hermitage in the Eastern American diocese are both battling against cancer. Please pray for God's mercy on them and for the spiritual well-being of those whom they serve during this difficult time.

Pilgrimage to Ireland

O holy hierarch Patrick, wonder­worker equal to the apostles, enlightener of the Irish land: entreat the merciful God, that He grant our souls remission of transgressions! - St Patrick Tropar, Tone 3

I have never been to Ireland but would dearly love to go. My paternal grandmother was Irish and I have recently had a desire to go to visit the area where she would have lived and known, and perhaps explore something of my Irish roots.

St Colman mac Ua Laoighse

My diocese has a small church in Stradbally, dedicated in honour of St Colman of Oughaval. There are some photographs of the church here. It was designed by Father Deacon Andrew Bond of the St George Orthodox Information Service, and built by local crafstmen. While they do not have their own priest, Father Peter from our cathedral travels over to serve the Liturgy for them on a regular basis. I would love to visit this little church and perhaps even do Reader services one Sunday. It would be a great honour.

I have no idea yet when this will be, or whether I shall be alone or take a friend but it is certainly something I wish to do, God willing. I would love to visit some of the shrines and holy places of the Saints of Orthodox Éire. Are there are any particular places that anybody would like to recommend? I'd be grateful for suggestions. Thank you.

Hail, glorious Saint Patrick! dear saint of our Isle,
on us thy poor children bestow a sweet smile;
and now thou art high in the mansions above,
on Erin's green valleys look down in thy love.

On Erin's green valleys, on Erin's green valleys,
on Erin's green valleys look down in thy love.

Hail, glorious Saint Patrick! thy words were once strong
against Satan's wiles and an infidel throng;
not less is thy might where in heaven thou art;
O, come to our aid, in our battle take part.

In the war against sin, in the fight for the Faith,
dear Saint, may thy children resist unto death;
may their strength be in meekness, in penance, their prayer,
their banner the Cross which they glory to bear.

Thy people, now exiles on many a shore,
shall love and revere thee till time be no more;
and the fire thou hast kindled shall ever burn bright,
its warmth undiminished, undying its light.

Ever bless and defend the sweet land of our birth,
where the shamrock still blooms as when thou wert on earth,
and our hearts shall yet burn, wherever we roam,
for God and Saint Patrick, and our native home.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How to Make Michael Feel Appreciated

Thanks to Elizabeth over at The Garden Window for this rather fun quiz. I must admit it wasn't the result for which I'd hoped. ;-)

Your results:
You are An Expendable Character (Redshirt)

An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Jean-Luc Picard
Mr. Scott
Geordi LaForge
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Deanna Troi
Beverly Crusher
Will Riker
Mr. Sulu
Since your accomplishments are seldom noticed,
and you are rarely thought of, you are expendable.
That doesn't mean your job isn't important but if you
were in Star Trek you would be killed off in the first
episode you appeared in.

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Quiz

Friday, May 08, 2009

From East to West: part two

In the Sarum Use of the Orthodox Roman Rite, before the Mass of Easter Day, the Holy Things are returned from the Sepulchre, where they have been since Maundy Thursday, to the High Altar. Once this is done, the rubrics require all the bells to be rung together in a clash, and two antiphons to be sung, of which the second is this:

Now let the Jews declare how the soldiers who guarded the sepulchre lost the King when the stone was placed, wherefore they kept not the Rock of righteousness; let them either produce Him buried, or adore Him rising, saying with us: Alleluia! Alelluia!

Christ is removed from the tomb and once again returned to the place of honour in the Church, and this calls those faithful of the Old Covenant to either acknowledge and affirm that it is fulfilled in the Risen Christ or to produce evidence to the contrary.

Compare this to the second resurrectional sticheron of Sunday Matins in tone two, from the Byzantine Rite:

Let the Jews say how the soldiers who kept watch lost the King. Why did the stone not keep the Rock of life? Either give up the buried corpse or worship the Risen One, saying with us: Glory to the magnitude of thy compassions, O our Saviour! Glory to Thee!

At some point in the development of our services,t is clear that there was some borrowing from the one for the use of the other. Our services are replete with this sort of ritual overlap and this shows that the same Faith is expressed in the different rites of the Church, and that their development was not independent of each other. I hope to post a number of examples of this sort of overlap as I encounter them or as they come to mind, firstly, because I find it quite exciting and, secondly, because I think that it is important for people to see that the Western Rite is not something foreign and alien to Orthodoxy but is very much a part of our heritage as Orthodox Christians.

The Divine Liturgy of St Mark

Thou wast an Apostle of Christ who learned from the pre-eminent Peter, and didst shine like the sun upon the lands of the Alexandrians, being their adorn­ment. Through thee was Egypt freed from deception, O blessed one, who as the Church's pillar of fire dost illumine all with thy teaching of the Gospel. Wherefore, honouring thy memory, we keep splendid festival, O divinely elo­quent Mark. Entreat God Who was announced by thee, that He grant our souls remission of offences. - St Mark Tropar, tone 3

Today is the Feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark and is one of the days when churches serve the Liturgy named in his honour. The Liturgy of St Mark is historically part of the local liturgical tradition of the Church of Alexandria. However, during the struggle of the Church under Ottoman rule, many of the local Orthodox traditions began to give way to the Byzantine Rite of the church centred in Constantinople.

Yet, there is evidence that the St Mark Liturgy continued in use up until at least the 16th century, before more recent efforts at its revival beginning with St Nektarios of Pentapolis in the late 19th century. The form in which it is used today retains many elements of the Alexandrian tradition but is heavily byzantinised, perhaps reflecting the Byzantine influence on the latest extant manuscripts.

Bishop Jerome of Manhattan

His Grace Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, while he was still Archpriest John Shaw, laboured to translate this Liturgy into English, and the result, along with his notes about its development and execution, may be found here.

This was blessed for use in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in April of 2007 and musical resources for the Liturgy are available on this website. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill has given his blessing for the inclusion of this liturgy in a Slavonic supplement to the Sluzhebnik and work is currently underway to produce an English-language clergy service book for this Liturgy, which should appear in time for st Mark's feast next year. This Liturgy is also blessed for use on the feast of St Cyril of Alexandria, which falls on the 9th of June, (which is the 22nd of June in the civil calendar).

Holy Apostle Mark, pray to God for us!
Holy Cyril, pray to God for us!

From East to West: part one

O pure and immaculate and likewise blessed Virgin; who art the sinless Mother of thy Son, the mighty Lord of the universe; thou who art inviolate and altogether holy, the hope of the hopeless and sinful, we sing thy praises. We bless thee, as full of every grace, thou who didst bear the God-Man: we all bow low before thee; we invoke thee and implore thine aid. Rescue us, O holy and inviolate Virgin, from every necessity that presses upon us and from all the temptations of the devil. Be our intercessor and advocate at the hour of death and judgement; deliver us from the fire that is not extinguished and from the outer darkness; make us worthy of the glory of thy Son, O dearest and most clement Virgin Mother. Thou indeed art our only hope, most sure and sacred in God's sight, to whom be honour and glory, majesty and dominion, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
A Prayer of St Isaac the Syrian

Could this have been the inspiration for the Salve, Regina?

Hail! holy Queen, Mother of Mercy. Hail! our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us and, after this our exile, show us the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Salve, Regina - Anonymous

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Paschal Zadostoinik

Sung in Church Slavonic by the choir of the Valaam Monastery, this has to be the most beautiful rendition that I have ever heard of one of my favourite hymns of the Church. Tears were welling up as I was listening to this.

Here is the English translation, often sung to the same setting as in the video:

The Angel cried unto the lady, full of grace: 'O pure Virgin, rejoice! and again I say, rejoice! for thy Son is risen from the grave on the third day. And He hath raised all the dead.' O ye people, be joyful!

Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem! for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Dance, now, dance and be glad, O Sion! Do thou exult, O pure Theotokos, in the Resurrection of thy Son!

I find it inexpressibly moving to think that the mourning Mother of God, having endured so much and seen her beloved Son endure so much, was once again comforted by an angel, perhaps even the Holy Archangel Gabriel himself, who had first brought her the news that she, of all women throughout all the world and throughout all the ages, would be the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy of the sign. Indeed, the description of her as "full of grace" is a direct reference to this very event. Having been obedient to God's will throughout all of those trials, it seems fitting that she should learn of the Resurrection from the angel in a new annunciation. And so the story goes full circle, and the anticipation and uncertainty of the first angelic salutation, "Rejoice!" is fulfilled in the comfort and joyous victory of the second - "and again I say rejoice!"

The icon of Our Lady of the Sign (Isaiah 7:14), showing the Virgin who conceived and bore Emmanuel. The Christ is enthroned in a circle of the stars, touching on another hymn, in which we hail her as having a womb "more spacious than the heavens", for she contained the One Who Is, Whom the vast expanse of the universe could not possibly contain.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.
Isaiah 7: 14&15

A friend of mine saw this text of this hymn and was moved, even to the point of entertaining the thought of the angels arguing among themselves over which of them would get to bring her the glad tidings of the Resurrection.

Of course, the Mother of God has what we are called to have, and is what we are all called to be, so the hymn doesn't stop with her but calls all of us to share in the joy and life of the Resurrection in the exhortation, "Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem!"

At the Vesperal Liturgy of St Basil on Holy Saturday - the "old" paschal vigil - we hear this reading from the prophecy of Isaiah:

Shine, shine, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thy eyes round about, and see: all these are gathered together, they are come to thee: thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt thou see, and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee.

The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Madian and Epha: all they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense: and shewing forth praise to the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nabaioth shall minister to thee: they shall be offered upon my acceptable altar, and I will glorify the house of my majesty. Who are these that fly as clouds, and as doves to their windows? For the islands wait for me, and the ships of the sea in the beginning: that I may bring thy sons from afar: their silver, and their gold with them, to the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee. And the children of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister to thee: for in my wrath have I struck thee, and in my reconciliation have I had mercy upon thee.

And thy gates shall be open continually: they shall not be shut day nor night, that the strength of the Gentiles may be brought to thee, and their kings may be brought. For the nation and the kingdom that will not serve thee, shall perish: and the Gentiles shall be wasted with desolation. The glory of Libanus shall come to thee, the Ar tree, and the box tree, and the pine tree together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary: and I will glorify the place of my feet. And the children of them that afflict thee, shall come bowing down to thee, and all that slandered thee shall worship the steps of thy feet, and shall call thee the city of the Lord, the Sion of the Holy One of Israel. Because thou wast forsaken, and hated, and there was none that passed through thee, I will make thee to be an everlasting glory, a joy unto generation and generation:

And thou shalt suck the milk of the Gentiles, and thou shalt be nursed with the breasts of kings: and thou shalt know that I am the Lord thy Saviour, and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
Isaiah 60:1-16

In the Resurrection of Christ, we see this prophecy fulfilled. The Church is the new Jerusalem, and the glory of the Lord has arisen upon us, just as Isaiah foretold. Death is conquered and life is set free, and it is our inheritance, for us to claim and in which we participate in the sacramental life of the Church - in the services, the Mysteries, the prayers and hymns, and in our communion with, and love for, each other.

In this brilliance of the Resurrection, and in keeping with Isaiah's prophecy that "thy gates shall be open continually, and they shall not be shut day or night" the doors of the iconostas in our churches are left open throughout Bright Week, so that we look through the open doors, which depict the Mother of God, whose entry into the temple is described in our hymns as "the prelude of God's goodwill and the prophecy of the salvation of men". We look through these open doors and we see the Reign and Kingdom of God. We see the eschatological nature of the life in Christ, whose kingship is symbolised by the Gospel Book and Holy Things enthroned on the Holy Table, beneath the icon of the Mystical Supper which depicts the heavenly banquet into which we are all called to be partakers.

You who have kept the fast, and you who have not,
rejoice this day, for the table is bountifully spread!
Feast royally, for the calf is fatted.
Let no one go away hungry.
Partake, all, of the banquet of faith.
Enjoy the bounty of the Lord's goodness!
from the paschal Homily of St John Chrysostom

This short hymn that we sing, aptly during the Anaphora, in the paschal season, is replete with the theology of the Resurrection and the whole Christian life, and I think that we would all benefit from pondering on these things at the next Liturgy in which we take part.

Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee!

Monday, May 04, 2009


Spiridon Stuart

I have received news within the past half hour that a member if my parish, known to me simply as Spiridon, reposed in the Lord last evening at approximately ten o' clock. He had been in ailing health for some time, having had a stroke some years ago, reducing his mobility, and having had a number of accidents in recent weeks.

Spiridon lived some considerable distance from our parish - up in Lancaster, in fact - and was seldom able to make it to church, although we kept in regular contact with him, and Father Paul and I visited him. He was always a bright character and had the most amazing stories to tell, including playful tales from adolescence, and stories of some of the delightfully colourful characters that he encountered over his years in ROCOR.

Before becoming Orthodox, Spiridon had been Catholic, and was in fact in the final weeks of his novitiate at Ampleforth Abbey when he felt that he could no longer participate in those forms of worship. In telling me his story, he shared that the last straw for him was the casual lack of reverence that was common, even at the monastery, in preparing the bread and wine for the mass. He saw this in comparison to the care and devotion that goes on, unseen, in Orthodox churches, (at the proskomedi), and felt that this was the way that the Eucharist ought to be treated and the this was the honour with which creation should hold its Creator. He left before taking final vows.

Yet he retained the link to monasticism. I was delighted to learn last year of his correspondence with Blessed Seraphim of Platina, for whom I have a great devotion but who reposed in the year before I was born. Spiridon was kind enough to share with me something of the love that he found in Father Seraphim.

Father Seraphim of Platina

Sadly, I shall now never see the letters that he had planned to show to me but to have had that sort of contact with somebody who had benefitted directly from the spiritual wisdom of Father Seraphim is good enough for me.

Spiridon's close ties to the monastic life were also manifested in his close friendship with the monks at Vashon Island, of whom he could not possibly have spoken more fondly. He would often spend months at a time at the monastery, and had expressed a desire for it to be the final resting place of his mortal remains.

Father Spiridon with Father Tryphon

What Spiridon had managed to keep very quiet was that he was, in fact, Father Spiridon, having been made a monk during one of his visits to the monastery. This has only now come to light since he was taken to the hospice last week. This had been known only by the monks, their bishop, and Father Paul.

Monk Spiridon received the Mysteries of Holy Unction, Confession, and Communion during Holy Week, and was anointed both by Fr Jonathan of the Antiochian Deanery and by our own Father Paul, during the last days of his earthly life, so he has been well prepared for his journey.

In a blessed falling asleep, grant, O Lord, eternal rest unto thy departed servant the Monk Spiridon, and make his memory to be eternal.

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery: and their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace.

And though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality. Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace he hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust he hath received them, and in time there shall be respect had to them.

The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds. They shall judge nations, and rule over people, and their Lord shall reign for ever. They that trust in him, shall understand the truth: and they that are faithful in love shall rest in him: for grace and peace is to his elect.
The Wisdom of Solomon 3: 1-9

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Calendar: Practicalities

Further to the delight that I felt at the inter-jurisdictional fellowship at this morning's Liturgy, I feel that the next step for our integration is for us to encourage more of our people to go to the pan-Orthodox pilgrimages. Whenever I go, people always express what I perceive to be genuine delight at the presence of somebody from the ROCOR, yet on every occasion that I have been, I have been the only one. Nobody else seems to go. I do wish that at least a small group of us could make the effort together because the fellowship and the friendship is invaluable.

It is unfortunate that there seems to be an insistence on all liturgies at these pilgrimages being served on the new calendar. This poses a difficulty for many of our people - myself included - and I am not aware of any general blessing for our clergy to serve on this calendar.

For my part, I gladly go and participate. I pray, I worship, and I often sing. Outside of the Lenten and Paschal period, I often question whether to receive communion, (I usually do in the end but the question is always there), and I will certainly not serve as a Reader on the new calendar. I suppose what I find most upsetting is that most of our brothers and sisters on the new calendar tell me that they do not see that it matters which calendar is used. If that is the case, then why do the organisers of pan-Orthodox events not make a concession to those of us for whom it is important? This would allow our clergy to concelebrate and our people to fully participate without further concern. I am not asking for them to change the practice at their own parishes, (although that would be a step forward) - when we visit them we are their guests and ought to receive their hospitality graciously and behave respectfully - but I am merely suggesting that they make the pan-Orthodox pilgrimages inclusive of all Orthodox Christians. Is that, after all, not what pan-Orthodox means?

I think that it may be the case that things that have now become the norm at these events are things that were established on the consensus of participating parishes and clergy years ago. As ROCOR has only recently been considered by many to be mainstream, we and our concerns still fly below many people's radar, and things just continue as they were in the past. The status quo is unlikely to change if we never turn up but it is precisely the status quo that makes it difficult for us to do so. So where do we go from here?

Perhaps the best thing for us to do is to go along and take part as fully a our consciences will allow - but no further. Only when our brothers and sisters are confronted with the practical reality of the problem - clergy who are present but cannot concelebrate, laity who are reticent about receiving communion - will they perceive a need to address it.

When Russia invaded Antioch

I had a lovely morning today. I usually travel about forty miles to get to church but, this weekend, my parish priest and his family have been staying much closer to where I live, so we all trundled along to my local Antiochian parish.

The iconostas at St Aidan's Orthodox Church, Manchester

Father Paul stood in the altar during the Liturgy but I didn't serve, standing instead with the merry bunch from Birkenhead. We all sang along with the choir and I vested at the appropriate point and received Communion. It was so lovely to be able to do that. Father Gregory and the good people at St Aidan's were welcoming hosts, as ever, and it just felt so natural for us to be there.

Only two years ago, while this would not have been impossible, it would certainly have been far less likely to have happened. I find this development very encouraging, as it is a sign that we are beginning to be more properly integrated into Orthodox life in the UK. May things continue to move in this direction.


I'd like to share one of my favourite passages from A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain. The visiting bishop tells of his feelings when celebrating the Divine Liturgy at the request of the monks.

I confess that that particular Divine Liturgy created a difficult situation for me. Never in my life had I experienced such embarrassment and at the same time such inexhaustible joy. I felt embarrassment because I was among saints. When I came out of the altar to give the blessing, saying, 'Peace be with you all', I was perplexed. 'But they have this peace, whereas I need peace', I was thinking. When I gave the apostolic blessing, 'The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all', I knew very well what I was doing. I was giving the blessing and grace to those who were full of grace. I was saying, 'Let us lift up our hearts' to people whose hearts were always lifted up. I was the only one concerned by that command.


It is an embarrassing situation to celebrate the Liturgy and impart Christ to those who are gods by grace. Christ is present there. "God among gods who have been deified by Him Who is truly God by nature."

Is this reflective of others' experience of monasticism, especially those who have been to the holy mountain? I have, in the pastm encountered a sequel to this book. However, I forget the title. Is anybody able to give an indication of whether it is as enlightening and inspiring as A Night in the Desert? If so, I would be very grateful if you were to share your thoughts. Thank you.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Because Cats are better than Dogs

Pascha in France

Continuing the paschal theme, the above is a video from the Western Orthodox Church, depicting some excerpts from their Good Friday Liturgy and Paschal Vigil. They are a communion of three churches in France, (though with a small UK presence), comprising a number of parishes and missions, and one coenobitic monastery. In the 1930s, the Russian Church received some former Old Catholic parishes into the Orthodox Church, with a charter to continue the ancient western traditions that had been practised by the first-millennium Saints of the Orthodox west. The original Ukase from Moscow named them Western Orthodox and called for them to be fully integrated into the life of the local church.

Sadly, this integration never really took place, largely due to a lack of understanding of the Western Rite among many Orthodox Christians of the Eastern tradition - including many of the hierarchs. That community has not always been well treated and has struggled over the decades with different local churches trying to force them to relinquish their western traditions, yet through all of this they have remained faithful to their original calling to bring the light of Orthodoxy to western people, using many of the prayers and forms of worship that would have been familiar to the Orthodox Saints of the west in the first millennium. Sadly, this has meant that they are currently not in communion with any of the mainstream Orthodox churches.

St John, serving the Gallican Liturgy of St Germain

Their only real period of active encouragement and support from the wider Orthodox Church was during the 1950s and 1960s, when they were under the care of Archbishop, now Saint, John the Wonderworker. He commissioned research into the ancient Gallican rite and restored this to use, with Byzantine interpolations, for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the French church. He himself served this Liturgy, and even had a bishop consecrated for the church.

The Consecration of Bishop Jean-Nectaire
The first Western Orthodox Bishop for 1000 years,
glorified as a Saint by the Western Orthodox Church

Today, the French church is generally bi-ritual. Their liturgies are mainly western where usable manuscripts of these services have survived though they are sensitively supplemented with Eastern liturgical traditions. This is no innovation as the Gallican rite always had strong eastern influences, the inclusion of the Trisagion being an ancient example of this. Their music is predominantly a develoment of ancient western plainsong, but harmonised, and supplemented by some Russian Obikhod chant. This combination of the best of eastern and western traditions, restoring the ancient and using it alongside that which has been continuous in the life of Orthodoxy, is really very beautiful. For example, the use of the trikiri and dikiri, now standard practice of Orthodox bishops, would have been just as alien to St John Chrysostom as it would to St Germain of Paris. However, it is a later development that has become standard in Orthodoxy and there is no reason why a Western Rite church cannot adopt it. The Church is a living organism, after all. Also, the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, depicted in the video above, will be recognisable to many western Christians but the more discerning will notice the similarities between the ceremonies of the Cross and shroud in that video and those surrounding the Epitaphios in the Byzantine Rite.

At the dawn of the 21st century, the French church, by this time called the Orthodox Church of France (ECOF), faced some very difficult challenges as certain revelations about its bishop came to light. This threw the church into turmoil. Three identifable groups separated from ECOF at different times. Of these, one has returned to the fullness of communion with the rest of the Orthodox Church and enjoys the care of the Church of Serbia, blessed be God! The remaining two have reunited with each other, and, having united with a third small church, have returned to their original name of the Western Orthodox Church. It is this reunited group that is depicted in the video above.

I pray for the day when they are once again returned to the fullness of life in the Church. They appear to do some good missionary work and spiritual development and their absence from our communion is a great loss to us indeed. Please join me in praying for restored communion with these churches. I leave you with a video of a diaconal ordination.

Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must also be eastern. The West was Orthodox for a thousand years, and her venerable liturgy is far older than any of her heresies.
Words of St John the Wonderworker,
spoken to Abbot Augustine (Whitfield) on the subject of opposition to the Western Rite within Orthodoxy

Pascha at Christ the Saviour, Moscow

The commentary gets a little annoying in parts but it is well worth viewing.

A Paschal Sequence

And now that the synagogue hath scorned Thee, wandering and straying in error, Thou hast made thy Church to spread abroad, in a lineage noble through all the sunlit earth. Whence I entreat Thee, by the marks of the Cross, and by the rose-red streaming of thy blood, those whom I bring forth to Thee as my children [this is all the voice of the Church] do Thou fill with grace streaming from heaven.

This is an excerpt from an Anglo-Saxon sequence from the Paschal Vigil, and was recently sent to me by Fr Aidan. I thought I'd share it as I find it really quite beautiful.

A Metropolis of Western Europe?

The reposed Patriarch Alexei

Back in 2003, the now reposed Patriarch Alexei of Moscow and All Russia addressed this open letter to some of the bishops the Russian church in Western Europe. In it he calls for a regularisation of the Russian Orthodox presence in this part of the world. At the moment, we have dioceses of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian Chuch Abroad, and the Paris Exarchate under the Ecumenical Patriarchate for churches of Russian tradition, all overlapping each other - not to mention two bishops of Berlin!

Much of the irregularity is the direct result of the actions and principles of the godless Soviet state but that is now in the past, and today we are left with the business of tidying up the administrative mess for the wellbeing and salvation of the Orthodox Christian people. Eventually, we need to look at the bigger picture of sorting out the canonical scandal of overlapping jurisdictions so that we can have a single, united Orthodox Church in this part of the world, whether it be in Great Britain or more widely in Western Europe. However, that will not happen until the jurisdictions sort out the internal disorganisation within their own respective structures. I think that we have become so accustomed to this situation that we often forget that it is highly irregular and we fail to realise the image that it creates in the minds of those who observe us, for such an arrangement is traditionally the result of schism and heresy. People see us and they perceive division where there is none. Although we know better, we cannot expect non-Orthodox people to have an intimate knowledge of the inner-workings of Orthodoxy on first encountering us. The onus is on us to tidy up the mess.

For my part, I welcome the Western European metropolis. I am delighted that the Russian church is now once again united in full canonical communion and hope that it can now be normalised. If this metropolis does come to be, it will incorporate the monasteries and parishes that are currently in the ROCOR dioceses of Germany, Great Britain & Ireland, and Western Europe, and the MP Diocese of Sourozh, along with their presence on the European mainland. Presumably, if the Ecumenical Patriarchate is amenable to this, those parishes and clergy of their Paris Exarchate who wished would also be welcome to join, thereby returning to the Russian church.

In the words of the Patriarch himself:

We hope that an autonomous Metropolia, uniting all the faithful of the Russian Orthodox tradition in the countries of Western Europe, will serve, at a time pleasing to God, as the foundation for the future canonical establishment of a multinational Local Orthodox Church of Western Europe, to be built in a spirit of conciliarity by all the Orthodox faithful living in those countries.

In a spirit of love I call upon you all, dear Bishops, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, to labour in the great work of healing the painful divisions of the Russian diaspora. May the God of love and peace bless your efforts.

If this does go ahead, it will be a great step towards moving towards a single local and canonically regular Orthodox church in our part of the world. The benefits of this would be immeasurable. Firstly, it would restore canonical harmony to Orthodoxy in Western Europe for the first time in centuries. This would make more visible the loving communion that the Church is. It would better place us to pool our resources and combine our efforts at mission, restoring the ancient Orthodox Faith of Britain to its people, whose heritage it rightly is, bringing them to the fullnes of life in Christ. It would do away with the common misconception that we are fragmented and divided due to the fact that a different bishop has jurisdiction depending on which parish you happen to go to. All of these things would be nothing but good.

The ground is fertile for the beginnings of such a venture, and through prayer and faith, it is possible. The Russian church is once again at unity within itself. The proposed Russian metropolis would map almost directly onto the territory currently covered by the Antiochian Archdiocese of Western Europe, already known and respected for its missionary work. Relations between Russia and Antioch are traditionally very good, and it would be splendid if the churches could work together in this way. The Serbian and Georgian presence in that territory could later become a part of this if they so wished. And who knows? There may even be a possibility of inclusion of the unfairly much-maligned Milan Synod. The possibilities are there and, if it God's will, it can and must happen.

His Eminence, Archbishop Mark of Berlin, Germany, and Great Britain

My own bishop has spoken on this subject fairly recently, seeing it as a good thing. Speaking to Interfax in January of this year, he said:

It seems to me that sooner or later we will have to take up the problem of establishing a metropolitan district in Western Europe.

I agree with him entirely and pray for the day when this comes to fruition.

So what do we do to restore oneness of life, communion, and harmony to the Orthodox Church in this part of the world? We need to speak to our priests, speak to our bishops, and let them know that we, the faithful on the ground, desire this. We need to build friendships with our brothers and sisters in other Orthodox churches, visit their churches and get to know them. We need to support them in any missionary efforts and special occasions in the lives of their parishes, and invite them to share in ours. We need to organise pilgrimages with them to the shrines and holy places of this land, where the Saints walked, and lived, and worked out their salvation, and we need to pray, with them, to these very same Saints, asking their intercession for the blessing of the all-holy Trinity on our life and work in this country today. Eventually, we shall begin to operate at the most fundamental level as a single church and, when this is ratified in council, it will merely serve to regularise a situation that will already have existed for some time.

O Thou Who hast bestowed upon us these common and concordant prayers, and Who hast promised that when two or three are agreed in thy name Thou wouldst grant their requests: do Thou Thyself now fulfil the requests of thy servants to their profit, granting us in this present age the knowledge of thy Truth, and in that to come, life everlasting.
The prayer of the third antiphon from the Liturgy of St Basil

Crist Aras!

Christ is risen!

And with that I shall make an attempt at resuscitating this blog at the encouragement of friends, old and new. Those who did not follow my blog when it was active can be forgiven for their ill judgement. However, those who knew it should know better than to ask for it to come back. I can only imagine they like me. :-)

In any case, who I am I to disappoint? Some time has passed now so it is possible that I may have new things to say. Please feel free to join in, comment, and stimulate. I really appreciated everybody's help during my exploratory years and would love to see it continue.

In Christ,

Friday, May 01, 2009

New Orthodox Church in Wallasey

From celestial realms descending,
ready for the nuptial bed,
to his presence, decked with jewels,
by her Lord shall she be led;
all her streets and all her bulwarks
of pure gold are fashioned. - Urbs Ierusalem Beata

After years of worshipping in a converted room in a private home, my parish is hoping to move to new premises in July. We have secured a redundant cemetery chapel in Wallasey, not far from where we are now, so our people will be able to travel there. We have use of it for 25 years. The cemetery and its chapel mean a lot to the local people and already we have had positive responses from people in the area. Some have begun reading up on Orthodoxy and hope to come to some of our first services in the new church. It's all very exciting.

From our perspective, it means that we shall have a visible place of witness that is recognisable as a church, and space to meet for social functions, catechesis, and perhaps other activities, without feeling as though we are imposing on the generosity and hospitality of a family. Who knows what may come of this in time, with prayer and effort?

A great deal of work needs to be done but there will be photo updates on the parish website as things progress. You need some imagination at the moment to see what it could be but by allmeans look at the "before" photos and see what you think. Let's see how things develop.

Daily, daily, sing the praises
of the city God hath made;
in the beauteous fields of Eden
its foundation stones are laid.

O, that I had wings of angels,
here to spread and heavenward fly,
I would seek the gates of Zion,
far beyond the starry sky!

All the walls of that dear city
are of bright and burnished gold;
it is matchless in its beauty,
and its treasures are untold.

In the midst of that dear city
Christ is reigning on His seat,
and the angels swing their censers
in a ring about His feet.

From the throne a river issues,
clear as crystal, passing bright,
and it traverses the city
like a beam of silver light.

There the forests ever blossom,
like our orchards here in May;
there the gardens never wither,
but eternally are gay.

There the meadows green and dewy
shine with lilies wondrous fair;
thousand, thousand, are the colours
of the waving flowers there.

There the wind is sweetly fragrant,
and is laden with the song
of the seraphs, and the elders,
and the great redeemèd throng.

O, I would my ears were open
here to catch that happy strain!
O, I would my eyes some vision
of that Eden would attain!