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Friday, 27 April 2012

On Greeting Pascha and on Beautiful Clothes

An Instruction on Thomas Sunday 

By Saint John of Kronstadt the Wonderworker

 Christ is Risen!

See the festival of festivals has come and gone, and the Royal Gates in the Lord's churches are closed again, and the services have become less festive than they were in Bright Week. But what has this festival left in our souls? You know that the Christian festivals do not pass by us in their appointed order, simply to leave our souls empty; on the contrary they should empty us and free us of all the cares and concerns of this vain world, so that during them we cast aside thinking, being concerned for, or delighting in, or being aggrieved over what is worldly, earthly and transitory, and instead meditate upon, be concerned for and rejoice in that which is heavenly and eternal. It was just for this that even the festival which has just passed was granted us.

But how do very many people greet and pass the feast of the Radiant Resurrection? One does not want to bring to mind the dirty deeds of men, but we must recall them to condemn them before the face of God and to convict those people who do them. After the radiant paschal service, the all-radiant festival was greeted with dark deeds; with lack of restraint and every kind of sin. Do we really think that we kept a fast before the feast only in order to throw ourselves even more greedily into everything carnal, into sinful deeds, and with even more shamelessness and effrontery to give ourselves over to every kind of lawlessness? Alas! Woe! Woe to us!

Brethren! Let us all shed tears, that we all approached the greatest feast of the Lord so unworthily and that we have all angered our Lord. This is not at all the way in which we should properly approach the feasts of the Lord, with rich and sophisticated foods and drinks, nor should it be with expensive outfits and golden adornments, nor with idleness or with idle-talking, but rather it should be with spiritual joy in the Lord for our deliverance from sin, and because of our eternal salvation through Christ, the Son of God; it should be with works of mercy, with abstaining from the passions, with attending God's house in spirit and in truth, and with simplicity in food and clothing.

O you, who have adorned yourselves with gold and with an abundance of the finest fabrics, women and virgins! In the name of the Lord, I address my speech to you. What a multitude of the poor you could have made glad on the most radiant day of Christ's Resurrection! How worthily you might have greeted this the greatest of feasts, if, in generosity of spirit and Christian love, you had exchanged some of your adornments for money and distributed that money to the poor! How prudent you might have been, in Christian terms, if you had had a less expensive outfit, and had given away the money that remained over from your purchases! On that day, what rich mercy you would have received from Christ the Lord? Yes, how properly in Christian terms you would then have greeted the festival of the Resurrection of Christ! 

But now, - what? You are adorned like an idol, but there are members of Christ without clothing; you are stuffed, and the members of Christ go hungry; you are wallowing in every kind of luxury, and they are in tears; we are in rich and splendid dwellings, and they are in cramped and filthy hovels, often no better than stables. We have no Christian love; we do not have a true festival of Christ's Resurrection, because he truly celebrates the Resurrection who rises up from doing dead works to doing deeds of beneficence, who rises unto faith and unto Christian love, who tramples down profligacy, luxury and all the passions!

Brethren! Let us celebrate the Lord's feasts like Christians and not like pagans! Amen.

Translated from the leaflet "Our Faith"
Thomas Sunday 1968

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Pascha at Saint Edward Brotherhood

A large number of parishioners and guests joined us for the Paschal Liturgy and for the Agape Vespers service during which the Gospel was read in ten languages including Welsh and Swedish. Thanks to Mrs. Katerina Lahiff for taking the photographs.

The Epitaphios

The bonfire on Pascha night
The Epitaphios bier on Bright Monday

Thomas Sunday

On the Sunday after Pascha we commemorate the occasion on which the Holy Apostle Thomas touched the Saviour's side. The hymns for this Sunday all concern the appearance of the Saviour to the disciples eight days after his arising and the normal hymns for the Resurrection are set aside.  The kontakion of the feast makes clear not only that the Apostle Thomas physically touched the life-bestowing side of the Saviour, but also that Christ entered whilst the doors were shut thus showing the brilliance of His Divinity.

In most churches the 'artos' or 'Thomas Bread' is distributed on this day - more properly, this should be done on Bright Saturday. The artos is baked in time for Pascha and it is kept in front of the Royal Doors all through Bright Week (except during the services).  In some traditions the Thomas Bread is eaten immediately, but more often it is dried and kept in the icon corner. When the Thomas Bread is blessed the priest says 'by Thy might root out from us all sickness and infirmity, granting health unto all' and so we eat a small portion in times of sickness or ill-health.

The Artos on Thomas Sunday

Monday, 16 April 2012

Christ is Risen!

Truly He is Risen!

for the All-Glorious Resurrection of Christ our Savior

        Our Personal Resurrection and the Descent into Our Brother’s Hades

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

During these holy days we have been deemed worthy to approach the Mystery of the Cross and Hades in a prayerful spirit. Today, we celebrate the Mystery and the Glad Tidings of the Resurrection and the Light.

“Now are all things filled with light, both Heaven and earth and the nether regions”!

Glory to God for all things! Man and Creation, renewed and liberated from corruption and from every created necessity, are now found amid the Light of the Holy Trinity, participating in the Mystery of Trinitarian Love and fathoming their own wholeness.

The Resurrection of Christ our Saviour is the culmination of Divine Love: God reveals Himself to us as Light, Life, and Resurrection. At the same time, God shows us that man is capable of receiving this Light, Life, and Resurrection.

The Uncreated Light of the Energies of God now permeates all of Creation through the Resurrection, makes us friends of God, and vouchsafes us a foretaste of the Glory of the age to come, the Glory of the Triune Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The Resurrection of our Lord has also revealed to us the Kingdom of God as a Communion of Persons: God exists as a Communion of Three Persons, Which interpenetrate one another in love—that is, the One lives in the Other.

Man has been given the gift of participating in this Triune Communion, but not individualistically. The life of our Church is a communion of persons, who are begotten spiritually, sustained and constantly renewed by the Uncreated Energies of God, and who constitute the family of God, the People of God.

The Descent of our Lord into Hades comprises a strong communal message of love: our personal Resurrection presupposes an exodus from ourselves and a descent into our brother’s dark Hades of pain and tragedy, so that we might encounter him personally and be resurrected together with him.

There is no individual resurrection, that is, no individual salvation. It is together that we must be saved; it is together that we must all return to the House of the Father, the Kingdom of God; it is together that we must partake of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb; it is together that we must live eternally in the Light of the Holy Trinity.

It has been exceedingly beautifully written that “when we appear before the Judge on the dreadful Day of Judgment, He will ask us only the following: ‘You are alone? Where are the others?’”

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

In the Resurrectional ethos of Orthodoxy, it is inconceivable for us not to participate in the agony of another’s misfortune, in universal human misfortune, and not to descend self-sacrificially into the Hades of human misery, into the Hades of human, existential, and communal pain.

Resurrection, for the Christian, means personhood in the Light, but also a sincere desire to share this Light with another, whosoever that other might be, in a Communion of love in Christ, beyond any kind of walls or borders and free from any form of hellish prejudice.

My brothers and sisters, may the prayers of our much-revered Elder, Metropolitan Cyprian, by the Grace of the Resurrection of Christ our Savior, strengthen us in this self-sacrificial opening-up of our existence, so that we might be suffused by Light and impart Light to our brothers and sisters, to the glory of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen!

                                             Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!


Holy Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior, 2012
Your humble supplicant
before our Risen Lord,

† Bishop Cyprian of Oreoi,
Acting President of the Holy Synod in Resistance

Friday, 13 April 2012

Holy and Great Friday

Of all the services of Holy and Great Friday, the most familiar to most Orthodox Christians will be the matins of Great Friday also called the 'Service of the Twelve Gospels'.  During this service twelve sections of the Gospels are read in which we hear of Christ's Passion and placing in the tomb.

On the morning of Great Friday the Royal Hours are read. The 'royal' part denotes that this service was attended by the Emperor. These hours contain an Old Testament reading, a reading from the Apostle and a Gospel reading relating to Christ's passion. In addition, the psalms of the hours are different, the usual psalms being replaced by ones prefiguring Christ's Passion.

In the afternoon, the Vespers service includes the bringing out of the Epitaphios from the altar to the centre of the church. During this procession the choir sings the troparion 'the noble Joseph' which is also sung, in a slightly augmented form, on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearers. From now until the kneeling prayers of Pentecost the only time we prostrate in church is in front of the Epitaphios.

Decorating the Epitaphios bier

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Holy and Great Thursday

On Holy and Great Thursday we celebrate the Mystical Supper and the inauguration of the Eucharist. In the services we also hear, in great detail, about Christ washing the feet of the disciples. Indeed, the Dismissal Hymn for Great Thursday (and Great Friday) begins 'When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of the feet'.

This washing of the feet showed Christ's humility and the priest makes reference to this in the special dismissal appointed for this service.

The matins of Great Thursday is quite short and there are no kathismas appointed.  Apart from Psalm 118 (kathisma 17) which is read in its entirety in the service of matins for Great Friday, there are no more kathisma readings until the vespers of Thomas Sunday.

The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great on Great Thursday is combined with Vespers which can be confusing if you're not familiar with the typicon. At the beginning of the Vespers, the priest exclaims 'Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit'. This blessing is the one that starts every Liturgy, but today the first part of the Liturgy is actually vespers. We sing the 'Lord I have cried' with the appointed verses and there is an entrance just as there would be a the Liturgy with the deacon or priest holding the Gospel and not the censer.

We then hear the appointed reading from the Old Testament, and after a small litany the choir sings the Trisagion (Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us' as in a normal Liturgy. The Liturgy then continues in the familiar way except that the Cherubic Hymn and 'In thee O full of grace' are replaced with special hymns for Great Thursday.

The icon of the Mystical Supper is available from  Holy Transfiguration Monastery

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Bridegroom services of Great Week

The Matins services of the first three days of Great Week are called the Bridegroom services. This title is based on the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins who were waiting the arrival of the bridegroom. On the first three days we sing the hymn which begins 'Behold the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night...'.  The Orthodox Church teaches that in this parable the bridegroom represents Christ and the parable reminds us that we should be ready not only to watch and wait to celebrate Christ's Resurrection, but also to pass our lives in repentance knowing that Christ will come again in glory.

On Great Monday, we commemorate the Patriarch Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers for thirty pieces of silver. This incident was a prefiguring of the betrayal of Christ by Judas. We also hear the gospel account of Christ's withering of the fig tree which serves as a reminder to us not to be barren but to bring fruits of repentance unto Christ.

On the Tuesday of Great Week we hear in full the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins and also the parable of the talants. These two parables remind us that the hour of our death is uncertain and that we should be ready at all times to give an account of our actions.

A large number of the hymns of Great Wednesday are devoted to the harlot who anointed Christ with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. The services of Great Wednesday contrast her repentance and love of Christ with the greed of Judas who betrayed Christ on the same day. This betrayal is the the reason that Orthodox Christians fast on Wednesday throughout the year.
The icon of the Bridegroom which depicts Christ wearing a crown of thorns and holding a reed in his right hand is placed in the centre of the Church on the first three days of Great Week.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Flag flying

On Wednesday 4th April, we at long last erected our flag pole at the Brotherhood and flew the flag for the first time!  Great Martyr George the Trophy-Bearer, Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, and St Patrick the Enlightener of Ireland, pray unto God for us.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Bishop Ambrose's Visit

His Grace, Bishop Ambrose of Methoni, is coming to England to help with the services of Passion Week and Pascha.

On the Great Feasts of Annunciation and Palm Sunday and for Pascha itself, the Bishop will serve at the Convent.

He will be at Brookwood on Holy Tuesday (10th n.s.) evening, through to the Wednesday evening (11th n.s.), and so will be here for the Presanctified Liturgy on the Wednesday. He will be celebrating the Mysterion of Holy Unction on the Wednesday evening, now scheduled for 5.30 p.m.  His Grace will also be with us for the monastic services while here.

He will be returning to Brookwood, D.V., on the afternoon of the day of Pascha for the Agape Vespers service and the reception afterwards, and may be staying (it depends on his arrangements) to celebrate the Divine Liturgy here on Bright Monday (16th n.s).

Lazarus Saturday

On the Saturday before Palm Sunday the Orthodox Church celebrates Christ's raising of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, from the dead. This event is recorded in the Gospel of Saint John.

On the previous Sunday we heard in matins the canon of repentance which centres on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In the weekday services we still hear about this parable, but also we begin to hear about the sickness and death of Lazarus the brother of Martha and Mary.

However, it's important not to confuse the parable of the rich man and Lazarus with the historical figure of Lazarus who was raised from from the dead on the fourth day.

The parable of Lazarus and the rich man instructs us to be merciful to the poor especially during as the season of Great Lent draws to a close. The celebration of the raising of Lazarus on this coming Saturday is a foreshadowing of Christ's Resurrection which we celebrate on Pascha.

On Lazarus Saturday, special resurrection hymns are combined with those of St. Lazarus and they  replace those normally used for the dead on every Saturday of the year. Conversely, on Palm Sunday the resurrection hymns appointed for the tone are set aside and a replaced by hymns for the feast of Palms.

After his first rising from the dead St. Lazarus became bishop of Kition in Cyprus and reposed in peace. His relics were translated to Constantinople in the year 890.

The icon above depicts St. Lazarus vested as a bishop and flanked by his two sisters. The icon was painted by the sisters of the Convent of St. Elizabeth in Etna and was commissioned in memory of Christakis Cleovoullou, who was from Cyprus, where St Lazarus was Bishop, and who fell asleep in the Lord on Palm Sunday, 2010.  It was purchased with a donation he gave us on the day of his repose, having that morning served in the altar at the Liturgy.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Service schedule for Great Week

Illustration by Boryana Gagova
Sat 25 March / 7 April
VIGIL FOR PALM SUNDAY (at Brookwood) at 6 p.m.

Sun  26 March / 8 April 
Liturgy at 10 a.m. 

Mon 27 March / 9 April
Great Monday; Mattins 7a.m;
Hours & Reading of the Four Gospels at 10 a.m, followed by Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts; Compline 7 p.m.

Tue 28 March / 10 April 
Great Tuesday;  Services 7a.m, 10 a.m. & 7 p.m. as on Monday

Wed 29 March / 11April 
Great Wednesday; Services as on Monday, 
EXCEPT Little Compline 5.30 p.m, followed by HOLY UNCTION. 
Please note that the Unction service will start at 5. 30 p.m. and not 7.00 p.m.

Thurs 30 March / 12 April 
GREAT THURSDAY; Mattins at 7 a.m. Vespers & Liturgy of St Basil the Great at noon;
Service of the Holy and Saving Passion (the Twelve Gospels Service) at 7.30 p.m. 

Fri 31 March / 13 April 
Royal Hours at 9.30 a.m.
Vespers & the Bringing Out of the Winding
Sheet of the Saviour at 4 p.m. Service of Lamentations at 8 p.m. 

Sat 1st/ 14 April 
Hours at 9 a.m. Vespers & Liturgy of St Basil the Great at 1 p.m.
Reading of the Acts of the Apostles at 9 p.m. Nocturns & Return of the Shroud at 11.30 p.m.



The Blessing of the Artos (Thomas Bread) & the Paschal Foods at the end of the Liturgy.
All Participants are invited to the Parish Paschal Breakfast. 

Sun 2nd/ 15 April

AGAPE VESPERS SERVICE & reading of the Gospel in many languages at 4 p.m.