At the fraternal invitation of His Grace Bishop Kyrillos of Milan, the Papal Deputy for All Europe, Abba Seraphim was invited to con-celebrate the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of Saint Mark at his shrine in the Basilica San Marco in Venice. This is an annual tradition in the Diocese of Milan, when Bishop Kyrillos is joined by the priests of his diocese and their families for this early morning celebration before the Basilica opens its doors to the public. The Basilica was originally erected in 828-832 as the Chapel of the Doge of Venice to house Saint Mark’s body, which was brought to Venice by two Venetian merchants, Buono da Malamocco and Rustico da Torcello. They claimed to have removed it from its shrine in Alexandria in order to protect it from feared destruction during the Fatimid Caliphate. This church was destroyed in 976 during a rebellion and although a second church was built in 1063 the relics were believed to have been lost in the fire. It was not until 1094, after Saint Mark’s relics were miraculously rediscovered, that the Basilica was formally consecrated. Today the relics rest in a shrine in the High Altar, which extends into the crypt chapel immediately below, where the Coptic Liturgy of St. Basil was celebrated on his feast. Following the service all the clergy and their families gathered together for lunch in a nearby restaurant.
Following Holy Pascha, at the invitation of His Grace Bishop Kyrillos, Bishop of Milan and Papal Deputy for All Europe, Abba Seraphim and the priestly members of the Synod of the British Orthodox Church, travelled to Northern Italy for a retreat in the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Milan.
Arriving in Milan on 22 April, Abba Seraphim and Fathers Simon Smyth, David Seeds and Peter Farrington, were received at Linate airport by Bishop Kyrillos and clergy, who accompanied them to St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Monastery at Lacchiarella. The next morning, being the traditional British date for the celebration of St. George’s Day, Abba Seraphim and his clergy celebrated the Divine Liturgy of St. James in the presence of Bishop Kyrillos, some of his priests and the monks of the monastery. Later, accompanied by Father Raffaele Gebrail, they were entertained to lunch in Milan with Engineer Salama Salama before being accompanied by Father Antonios Ava Shenouti on the train to Venice, where they dined with Bishop Kyrillos.
The next day, accompanied by Father Antonios, they visited the Basilica of St. Marco and prayed at the tomb of the saint at the high altar. They then visited the Church of St. Zaccaria to pray at the shrines of St. John the Forerunner’s father, the priest Zechariah, as well as those of St. Athanasius the Apostolic. Venice is rich in relics of the saints, those of St. Mark having been stolen from Alexandria by Venetian merchants in 828, although a portion of the relics were returned to Pope Kyrillos VI by Pope Paul VI of Rome. Similarly in 1973 Pope Paul sent a portion of the relics of St. Athanasius to the late Pope Shenouda III in a fraternal gesture. The party ended their tour on foot at the Cathedral of St. Pietro in Castello, where they viewed the ancient throne of St. Peter, which had originally stood in Antioch. In the late afternoon they visited the site of the new Cathedral in Campalto, just outside the ancient city of Venice, where they joined Bishop Kyrillos and prayed for the successful completion of the work.
Returning to Milan on 25 April they lunched with Salama Salama’s son, Tariq, and his wife Christina, who then accompanied them (with Father Raffaele) to some of the significant sites in the city. As it was Independence Day in Italy, the streets were very busy with holiday makers and marchers. They prayed at the shrine of St. Ambrose, before visiting St. Maria dei Miracoli, the Duomo and the Basilica of St. Babila, named after St. Babylas, Patriarch of Antioch, who was martyred in the Decian persecution of 254.
The following morning Abba Seraphim and his priests assisted Bishop Kyrillos perform the marriage of Shady and Guiliana, followed by St. Basil’s Liturgy. This was a fitting climax to a blessed retreat during which the bishops and clergy of the two dioceses shared many insights of their respective ministries and a profound sense of fraternal love which binds them together.
To commemorate the fact that 2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of the union of the British Orthodox Church with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, the British Orthodox Press has published two new editions of liturgical texts, as authorised for use in The British Orthodox Church. A third edition of The Offering of the Morning and Evening Incense, with an introductory essay and bibliography by Father Gregory Tillett has been published in a handsome new casebound edition. Uniform with this edition is the second edition of The Divine Liturgy of Saint James with an introductory essay and bibliography by Abba Seraphim as well as full rubrics. Both books, published by the British Orthodox Press, are available online from our printers & distributors.
A new edition of the Congregational edition of the combined Morning & Evening Incense and the Divine Liturgy will shortly be available as well as a fully rubricated Clergy edition of the same, both in single volumes
The Offering of the Morning and Evening Incense
The Divine Liturgy of Saint James
During the celebration of the Paschal Eve Liturgy at the British Orthodox Church of St. Mary & Felix at Babingley, Norfolk, Abba Seraphim presented the church with a reliquary containing the bones of some of the Theban Legion; illustrating the common hope of all Christians in the Resurrection. Having reminded the congregation that it is appointed for all men once to die (Hebrews IX: 27) he reminded them that Christ is the firstfruits (1 Corinthians XV: 23) – the promise – of the great harvest of all men on the Day of Resurrection). We share that hope with Christians of all generations and with the saints of God, whom we call blessed souls. Abba Seraphim spoke of the faithful witness of the Theban Legion – Coptic Christians – serving under the Emperor Maximian in what is now Switzerland – who chose martyrdom in AD 286 rather than offer worship to the Emperor. In entrusting the relics to the Babingley Church he expressed the hope that they would be a source of blessing and powerful intercessors to all enter the church to pray. Assisting Abba Seraphim were Deacon Christopher Barnes and Subdeacons Roger-Kenneth Player and James Trevor Maskery.
Special prayers were also said for Deacon Mark Saunders and his wife Sybil, who were both admitted to hospital during Holy Week.
On 12 April the new BOC Stoke Mission at Stoke-on-Trent hosted its first celebration of the Divine Liturgy. This memorable event took place at St Paul’s Church, Church Square, Burslem, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4BY and was celebrated by Abba Seraphim, assisted by Fathers David Seeds, Peter Farrington, Archdeacon Alexander Astill, Deacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Petrous Louis, on his first visit to the UK from Melbourne. The celebration received warm support from our ecumenical partners and especially from the Suffragan Bishop of Stafford, (The Right Rev’d Geoff Annas), who also attended.
Following the Raising of Morning Incense, Father David received four local enquirers as catechumens with prayer and anointing with oil. There are now five adult catechumens in Stoke preparing for baptism and the first of these will take place on 7 June. Father Peter plans to visit Stoke on a fortnightly basis to build up the Mission, when he will celebrate the Liturgy, share a communal meal with them and lead a study & instruction session.
During his homily, Father Peter used the Gospel account of the raising of Lazarus to illustrate our need for commitment and responsiveness to the divine call. Following the liturgy, all those present shared a buffet lunch and time of Christian fellowship.