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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.

New Church

Icons and the altar of the "Joy of All Who Sorrow" parish

The new church of the Mother of God: Joy of All Who Sorrow, in Mettingham, is to be blessed as an Orthodox church by His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Great Britain on Thursday, the 16th of July, in the presence of the relics of the Holy New-Martyrs Elisabeth and Barbara. The church was built in sections in Russia and shipped to the UK for assembly, and is now complete save for the doors of the iconostas. A few photographs may be seen on the gallery linked from the diocesan website. While simple, the building has some notable features, not the least of which are the late Anglo-Saxon/early Norman influence appearance of the arches of the iconostas, along with the lamps which are unusually but beautifully suspended above the Holy Table rather than resting upon it.

It is now the third purpose-built Orthodox church in our diocese and a sign of the restoration of the Orthodox Faith in the British Isles, and has largely come about through the hard work of Father Deacon Andrew Bond, supported by Reader Mark Tattum-Smith and the faithful of the Waveney Valley area. Regular services have been offered in the church now since Pascha.

Unfortunately, I shan't be able to be there, as transportation would be difficult to arrange and this falls two days before my own parish's patronal festival, when we shall move into our new building. Still, I pray that all goes well at this exciting time in the life of this new parish.

God grant them many years!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


The Hodigitria icon of the Mother of God

My parish plans to do the Paraklesis service for the first time during this upcoming Dormition fast. I have only myself been recently exposed to it and I must say that the words really touch me. There's a difference between reading a prayer and praying it but I have so far found it imposisble to read the words of this without finding myself stirred to prayer.

Does anybody know where I may be able to find the music for it, especially as sung by Abouna's Angels on their splendid CD?

Higher than the heavens above art thou, and thou art much purer than the radiance of the sun, for thou hast redeemed us out of the curse that held us: O Mistress of Creation, thee do we magnify!

From the great abundance of all my sins, ill am I in body, ailing also am I in soul. Thee have I as refuge. Do thou, therefore, O help me, O hope of all the hopeless, for thou art full of grace!

O Lady, and mother of Christ our God, receive supplication from us sinners, who beg of thee that thou make entreaty unto the One born from thee: O Mistress of Creation, pray thou to God for us!

Now we chant with eagerness unto thee with this hymn most joyful, Theotokos, all-lauded one. Together with the Baptist and all the Saints together, beseech, O Theotokos, that we find clemency.

Speechless be the lips of the impious, who refuse to reverence the revered icon, which is known by the name "Directress", and which hath been depicted for us by the Apostle, Luke the Evangelist.

Holy array of angelic hosts, O thou holy Baptist, and ye holy Apostles, all ye Saints together, as well as God's Birth-Giver: pray, make ye intercessions for our deliverance!
The megalynaria from the Paraklesis service, sung after the supplicatory canon

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Relics of St Elisabeth to visit UK

Initial information is here and details will be published in further updates.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

St John the Wonderworker - video

Lo, thy care for thy flock in its sojourn hath prefigured the supplications which thou dost ever offer up for the whole world. Thus do we believe, having come to know thy love, O holy hierarch and wonderworker John! Wholly sanctified by God through the ministry of the all-pure Mysteries, and thyself ever strengthened thereby, thou didst hasten unto the suffering, O most gladsome healer. Hasten now also to the aid of us who honour thee with all our heart. - Troparion, tone 5

I am delighted to report that a new video recounting the life of St John the Wonderworker has been released on DVD. As a great lover of this Saint, I thoroughly look forward to receiving my copy. A trailer of the DVD has been posted to Youtube and is here:

Copies of the DVD may be obtained from the Revd Father Peter Shashkoff at

St John, as I have posted in the recent past, was a great supporter of the restoration of Orthodoxy to people of western lands, encouraging devotion to the first-millennium Saints of the west, and blessing for use, and himself serving, the Gallican Divine Liturgy of St Germain. He had a love for encouraging the young in the Faith and is reported to have often been late for Divine Liturgy because he would stop to skip and to play other games with young people in the street. I would have loved to see a becassocked archbishop in such a situation.

Among the stories of him that I have heard is one from the days when he took care of my own diocese. He was making a visitation to the parish of St Nicholas, in Bradford, went to the address to which he had been told to report, and was asked to stay on the doorstep while a cup of tea was fetched for him, which he humbly did. It seems that his host was unconvinced that the little man in a tattered cassock was in fact the archbishop, such was his unpretentious appearance and humble manner. Yet it speaks in his host's favour that the Saint was offered hospitality in spite of the doubts over his identity.

I have read his book on the Mother of God, and have two books about him, Man of God, which includes many stories from those who encountered him during his rearthly life, and Lantern of Grace, which contains many high quality photographs of him, including some from the glorifcation services. Both are available from Father Gregory at the St John of Kronstadt Press.

There is a collection of his writings here, and some good photographs here.

St John serving the restored Gallican Mass at the then ROCOR Cathedral of St Irenée in Paris

St John's Feast falls on the 19th of June, being the 2nd of July in the Orthodox Church calendar.

Holy Wonderworker John, pray to God for us!