THIS YEAR, the anniversary of the Enshrinement of the Sacred relics at Brookwood fell on a Sunday (3rd / 16th September) and His Grace, Bishop Ambrose of Methoni came to England to be with us. On the Saturday, the Bishop celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Convent of the Annunciation, and there we were joined by Archimandrite Ieronymos from Jordan, a clergyman of the the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, who prayed within the altar during the service. Fr Ieronymos, as Bishop Ambrose told the faithful at the end of the Liturgy, had know His Grace from childhood. The Bishop remarked in his sermon that the previous day had been the Church New Year, and that the Gospel appointed for the Saturday was about an ending, the Saviour’s prophecy concerning the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. He pointed out that for us everyday should be an ending and a beginning: an ending to our sinful ways and a new beginning in repentance and in Godliness. After the Liturgy, Mother Vikentia and her sisters kindly treated all to a breakfast in their main trapeza. Bishop Ambrose invited Fr Ieronymos to come with us to Brookwood to see the Brotherhood, though he had to be back in London that evening. En route we called by the Russian Church of the Dormition on Harvard Road, where we found Archpriest Vladimir Vilgerts talking with some parishioners in the church and so we were able to show our guest from Jordan the church and venerate the holy things there, and on reaching Brookwood we showed Fr Ieronymos our church and the workrooms, etc, here, and offered him some refreshments before taking him to the station to enable him to return to London for his appointment there.
In the evening our congregation at the Vigil was joined by a group of pilgrims from the Russian Orthodox Cathedral at Ennismore Gardens, London. His Grace led the prayers at the liti, and at the polyeleos. At the end of the service, he gave a short address about the significance of St Edward. On Sunday morning, His Grace, Bishop Sofronie of Suceava arrived from Romania, and the two hierarchs concelebrated with the Brotherhood clergy. Again we were joined by pilgrims from Ennismore Gardens and other Orthodox churches, and by some Anglcans from Corfe in Dorset, where St Edward had been slain. After the vesting of the Bishop, and the reading of the Hours, Bishop Ambrose tonsured Borislav Popov from Chatham a reader and made him a subdeacon. During the Divine Liturgy, after the Gospel, His Grace preached about the close connection between the love of God and love of one’s neighbour, illustrating his point with an incident from the life of St Basil the Great. He then continued, speaking again about St Edward, his life, his championing the monastics, and the importance of the monastic life. For this service the church was packed, and apparently many people could not get in. It has been described by one person as a feast for sardines and slim ones at that! At the end of the Divine Liturgy we had the Lesser Blessing of Waters, and all those who attended were sprinkled with the holy water and give the antidoron. Through the kindness of our parishioners, a buffet meal was then provided in the Old Mortuary, but the Bishops quickly returned to church where they celebrated the Baptism of Antonie Costin of Colindale, the infant son of Nicolae and Daniela Costin. His godfather was Vasile Costin. After the Baptism and churching, Antonie was imparted the holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of our Saviour. Bishop Sofronie then left us, but Bishop Ambrose stayed some time to meet our parishioners and talk with them individually. Throughout the afternoon individuals and couples, who had attended Divine services in their own parishes in London, came to pray in the church on the Saint’s day, including two families from nearby who had just found us on the internet. Doubtless the grace of the Saint drew them on that day. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that never since the sacred relics of St Edward were given to our church twenty-eight years ago, have we had such a feast for his day or so many people attend. The archpastoral love that our hierarchs showed us in leading the celebrations undoubtedly contributed to this, and for this we are truly grateful. Glory be to our God! And Many Years to the Newly-Illumined Antonie, his sponsor Vasile, and to our new Subdeacon Borislav, his wife, Marina, and their family! Please keep them all in your prayers.