At the invitation of Alistair McKitterick, Tutor and Lecturer in Biblical and Theological Studies, two British Orthodox priests delivered lectures this month to students at Moorlands Bible College, Sopley, Christchurch, Hampshire. On 5 November Father Peter Farrington lectured on prayer and one week later, 12 November, Father Simon Smyth gave a richly illustrated presentation on icons.
Introducing himself as both a former Moorlands student (from the late ‘eighties) and a former evangelical Christian enabled his evangelical audience to more easily relate to Father Peter and more easily identify with his lecture. Referring to the teaching of Evagrius that if “you are a theologian you truly pray” and if “you truly pray you are a theologian” Father Peter emphasised the importance of knowing God through the encounter in prayer rather than academically knowing things about God. The lecture ranged through Saints Cyril of Jerusalem, John Cassian, John Chrysostom, Moses the Black and others, referring also to the contemporary Orthodox writings of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. Father Peter was careful to emphasise the apophatic approach and how closer encounters with God in prayer contrast with the modern tendency to almost analyse or understand God. In a wide ranging talk Father Peter also spoke on the importance of fasting and, of course, the Jesus Prayer.
Father Simon gave his presentation on icons at Moorlands for the fifth time (first visiting the college in 2009). The classic text of Saint John of Damascus was discussed and the Incarnation emphasised again and again as the requirement for icons: the “very heart of Christianity is Christ, God incarnate, God made flesh…. To see Jesus is to see the (otherwise) invisible God.” The union of God with man in accordance with the teaching of Saint Cyril the Great of Alexandria was emphasised. “To speak His Name is to speak the Name of God. To see His Face is to see the Face of God. To depict Him is to depict God.” Several icons were analysed in more detail including a modern icon of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ:
And an icon of the Apocalypse:
Several different icons of the Good Shepherd were contrasted, then of Saint Moses the Black and also of Saint Simon the Tanner; 12 November being the first of the three days added to the Advent Fast in perpetual memory of the three days of fasting and Saint Simon’s part in God’s miraculous deliverance of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the tenth century.
Some students however acceptable they found the theology of the presentation clearly struggled with an emotional response to the idea of kissing an icon. Father Simon’s honesty in frankly acknowledging (though now the most natural thing in the world for him) how difficult he had once found it, with his then evangelical protestant background, to force himself to first kiss an icon seemed to help facilitate discussion around this. The session finished with all present each sitting in prayerful silence for a few minutes before an icon of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
As in previous years, clergy and laity of the British Orthodox Church joined the annual Anglican Pilgrimage to Glastonbury, on 21 June. By tradition an Orthodox liturgy is generally celebrated in St. Mary’s Chapel (the Undercroft) on the morning of the pilgrimage, by Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox in alternate years.
Abba Seraphim was this year’s celebrant, but as an archaeological dig in the Undercroft was over-running schedule, the Liturgy of Saint James was celebrated in the adjacent St. Patrick’s Chapel. Assisting Abba Seraphim were Father Simon Smyth, Deacon Daniel Malyon and Subdeacons Paul Ashdown, Anthony-Paul Holland and Trevor Maskery. Abba Seraphim and his clergy later attended the Anglican Eucharist and afterwards joined the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Abbey. The principal celebrant was The Right Rev’d Bishop Roger Jupp, Chairman of the Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association, who warmly welcomed Abba Seraphim and his people, and the sermon was preached by The Right Rev’d Jonathan Goodall, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, who also attended the Liturgy of Saint James. The day was further blessed by especially clement weather.
Palm Sunday saw the Bournemouth Church of Christ the Saviour decorated with palm branches and with palm crosses distributed to the faithful who had come to fulfil the blessed demands of Holy Week. The Monday to Wednesday services (Day And Evening Hours) were led by Subdeacon John Morgan. Father Simon (who had helped with the Portsmouth and Southampton Holy Week services through the earlier part of the week) led a well supported congregation for the Holy Thursday afternoon, foot washing, Liturgy and Eve of Friday prayers. The Good Friday worship was, as always, well supported with many of the congregation expressing what blessing they received through these demanding, even strenuous, yet wondrous services. Deacons and subdeacons were, as always, magnificent, reflecting faithfully Saint Ignatius of Antioch’s famous words of appreciation for the diaconate. The Paschal greeting and response rang out Saturday night in English, Greek, Romanian and Church Slavonic reflecting the Pentecost-like multi-national congregation who had gathered together to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ
On the evening of January 6th a festal Liturgy in honour of the Feast of Theophany was celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim, supported by Father Simon Smyth and Father Peter Farrington, the priest responsible for the Orthodox Mission of St Andrew at Clewer, Windsor, together with Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Trevor Maskery. The service took place in the beautiful and ancient Church of St Andrew, parts of which date back to the Norman Conquest and which is always filled with an atmosphere of prayer accumulated over the last one thousand years.
The Orthodox Mission of St Andrew has been growing for the last 12 months, and the congregation at this Liturgy was the most numerous so far. It was an especial pleasure to welcome the Bishop of Reading, Andrew Proud, in whose jurisdiction the Church of St Andrew is found, as well as both the Revd. Louise Brown, former priest in charge of St Andrew’s and whose hospitality allowed the mission community to begin worshipping at St Andrew’s, and the Revd. Rosie Webb, recently taking up her ministry at St Andrew’s as priest in charge. Other visitors also joined us, together with the regular members of the mission community of St Andrew.
The congregation gathers in the choir of medieval St Andrew’s, surrounded by graceful architecture in wood and stone, and the presence of many icons of the highest quality, created by Annie Shaw, a member of the mission community and a professional iconographer, only add to the creation of an atmosphere proper for our Orthodox liturgical worship. Indeed many of the prayers which were offered by the celebrant and congregation must have echoed within these walls for a millenia. On this occasion the congregation had so increased that it was necessary to spill out into the body of the church itself through the gates of the rood screen.
During the Liturgy His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim blessed water for the Theophany and anointed the congregation. That which remained was eagerly collected in bottles and received by the congregation. Father Peter Farrington addressed the gathered worshippers in a homily which called on those present to commit themselves to prayer, study of the Scriptures and fasting in 2014.
After the completion of the Liturgy the congregation gathered in the Lodge at the edge of the churchyard and shared in a light buffet which included biscuits made according to the Ukrainian tradition by one of the worshippers.
The Orthodox Mission of St Andrew is presently celebrating the Liturgy one Saturday each month, and Evening Prayer one Monday evening each month. The mission website is at http://www.orthodoxwindsor.co.uk
The recent visit of His Holiness Mar Basilius Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, to England, was not only a great blessing for the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom but also a significant ecumenical event. His visit marked a number of historic anniversaries: 80 years since the first celebration of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Qurbana in the Chapel of King’s College, London; 75 years since H.H.The Catholicos, Mar Baselios Geeverghese II visited the UK in 1937; 60 years since the Malayalee migration to the UK and 40 years since the formation of the St. Gregorios Congregation in London.
Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Trevor Maskery, attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Catholicos at St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church in Brockley on Sunday, 8 September, and assisted in the liturgical celebration and the parochial speeches and festivities which followed.
On Monday, 9 September a Banquet of some 90 guests was held to honour the Catholicos at Lambeth Palace. In the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Gibraltar in Europe (The Right Rev. Geoffrey Rowell) and Southwark (The Right Rev. Christopher Chessum) acted as hosts. Representatives of all the major churches were present as well as many leading members of the Malayalee community in the UK and friends of the Indian Orthodox Church. The British Orthodox Church was represented by Abba Seraphim, Father Peter Farrington and Father & Mrs. Simon Smyth.