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.
As once again, the date for Holy Pascha was common to both East and West, there was a great sense of oneness among Christians in celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection. British Orthodox congregations observed the Holy Week services whilst at Charlton, Father Sergius Scott joined in an Ecumenical Procession of Witness on Good Friday. In all our churches the Paschal Vigil and Liturgy was celebrated on Pascha Eve (23 April), which also coincided with the traditional observance of St. George’s Day in England. The exceptionally fine weather and the fact that so many trees, shrubs and flowers had burst into bloom, added to the sense of the glory of the new life revealed in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Because of its elderly congregation and the church being isolated in the countryside, St, Mary & St. Felix at Babingley in Norfolk began the Vigil service just before sunset. Abba Seraphim presided and was the first to proclaim, “Christ is Risen”. As there were a good number of Orthodox Christians from Moldova and Russia joining the regular congregation, they were also greeted in Russian. At the conclusion of the Liturgy when Abba Seraphim blessed and distributed dyed eggs, he also blessed their traditional festive foods of pascha and kullich, which they had brought to the church. Father Simon reports that the Bournemouth and Portsmouth congregations celebrated Holy Week and the feast at the Church of Christ the Saviour at Winton (Bournemnouth) and services were well supported. Following the Vigil and Liturgy on Pascha Eve, on the forenoon of Pascha, prayers for the departed were said at church and in a long-established local tradition their graves at Wimborne Road Cemetery were visited and the Resurrection hymn sung as eggs were placed on their graves. At Cusworth the local congregation were also joined by Orthodox Christians from Eastern Europe and the church was filled, whilst at Chatham a new catechumen was received during the evening and the joyous celebration concluded with an extensive buffet which continued into the early hours.
At the conclusion of the service at Babingley Abba Seraphim read the Paschal message from His Holiness Pope Shenouda III and all churches prayed with great fervour for Pope Shenouda and also Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka of Antioch, having a great burden of concern for their brothers and sisters in Egypt and Syria who are caught up in the civil disturbances in both countries.
Abba Seraphim returned to London at noon on Holy Pascha and went first to greet Father Michael Robson at Morden College, Blackheath, before visiting sick and housebound members of the church with Holy Communion.
Christ is Risen!
Our final Sayers Common Liturgy is scheduled for Sunday 27th June: Matins (9.30) & Divine Liturgy (10.15). The decision to close the Sayers Common mission has not been taken without any regret and reflects a situation in which in terms of our limited resources we have over-stretched ourselves or ‘spread ourselves too thinly’ in taking this on and attempting to sustain it these past two years.
This year’s Oriental Orthodox Festival is Saturday 8th May at the Coptic Centre, Shephalbury Manor, Broadhall Way, Stevenage SG2 8RH from 10:30 am to 4 pm. The Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK organises the Festival and this year His Grace Bishop Angelos is hosting the event at the Coptic Orthodox centre at Stevenage.
The Festival includes a con-celebrated liturgy in which clergy of all of the member churches of the Oriental Orthodox community participate. A buffet lunch follows, made up of contributions brought by all of the participants at the festival, and the festival concludes with contributions from various Orthodox communities, which may include choirs performing hymns and songs from the various Orthodox traditions represented, and one or more short talks by some of the clergy.
The festival is an important opportunity for the various communities of the Oriental Orthodox communion in the UK to meet together to express our unity in the Orthodox Church, and to develop bonds of friendship and fellowship. It is important that as many clergy and people attend as possible to make the festival a success.
Coptic, British, Armenian and Syrian bishops together during the last Stevenage Oriental Orthodox Festival.