Monday, 28 December 2009

Services for January 2010

Fri 1 11am Divine Liturgy of St. Basil

Sat 2 6pm Great Vespers
Sun 3 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy

Tues 5 6.30pm Vesperal Divine Liturgy
And indoor Great Blessing of the Waters

Wed 6 11am Theophany Liturgy
And Outdoor Great Blessing of the Waters

Sat 9 6pm Great Vespers
Sun 10 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy
Mon 11 7pm Church Council Meeting

Sat 16 6pm Great Vespers
Sun 17 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy

Sat 23 6pm Great Vespers
Sun 24 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy
Fast-free week
Sat 30 6pm Great Vespers
Sun 31 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy

Mon 1 6.30pm Great Vespers
Tues 2 11am Divine Liturgy

Please book House Blessings between Thursday 7th January
and the beginning of Great Lent on Monday 15th February

Namedays in January

1st Vasiliki
7th Cristian Bostan; Jan; Oana
14th Nino; Nina
17th Antonis


14th Mary Carter 2005
18th Priest John 2001

Feasts celebrated on January 1st

This year we are celebrating a Liturgy
of St Basil on 1st January – the feast of
the Circumcision of our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ and the day on
which St Basil the Great is also
In submitting to the Law of
Circumcision, Our Lord signifies that He
is the fullness and the completion of
the Old Covenant. St. Paul says, in the
Epistle read on the Feast: For in [Jesus]
the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily
and you have come to fullness of life in
Him, Who is the head of all rule and
authority. In Him also you were
circumcised with a circumcision made
without hands, by putting off the body
of flesh in the circumcision of Christ.

The Church Fathers explain that the Lord, the Creator of the Law, underwent
circumcision in order to give people an example of how faithfully the divine
ordinances ought to be fulfilled. The Lord was circumcised so that later no one
would doubt that he had truly assumed human flesh, and that his
Incarnation was not merely an illusion, as certain heretics taught.
Additionally, he received the name Jesus (Saviour) on this day. These two
events, the Lord's Circumcision and Naming, remind Christians that they have
entered into a New Covenant with God.

Our father among the saints Basil the Great is shown in the icon on the front
page above the icon of the Circumcision
Basil the Great (c330 - January 1, 379), was bishop of Caesarea, a leading
churchman in the 4th century. The Church considers him a saint and one of
the Three Holy Hierarchs, together with Saints Gregory the Theologian (Gregory
Nazianzus) and John Chrysostom.
Basil, Gregory the Theologian, and Basil's brother Saint Gregory of Nyssa are
called the Cappadocian Fathers. The Roman Catholic Church also considers him
a saint and calls him a Doctor of the Church.

Basil's memory is celebrated on January 1; he is also remembered on January
30 with the Three Holy Hierarchs. In Greek tradition, he is supposed to visit
children and give presents every January 1. This festival is also marked by the
baking of Saint Basil's bread (Vasilópita), a sweetbread with a coin hidden

He should not be confused with Saint Basil the Blessed, Fool-for-Christ, a
Russian saint, after whom St. Basil's Cathedral, on Red Square in Moscow, is

Great Lent and Memorials

The fasting period leading to Great Week and Holy Pascha will soon be upon us.
It begins on Monday 15th February.
One of the characteristics of the period is the provision of “Memorial Saturdays”.
Sat 6th February is the first one.
Saturday is the right day to remember the anniversaries of our departed loved ones.
Sunday is the day of Resurrection and should not be used for Memorials. I have
tried to encourage the use of Saturdays for Memorials so that we do not detract
from the joyful, triumphal celebration of the Resurrection of our Saviour.
So stick to Saturdays for Memorials please. We have a beautiful little church,
let’s be in it as often as we can, not just a quick visit on Sundays.
Our Church Calendar provides many occasions when we are asked to
face up to the fact of death, and at this time of year there are "Saturdays
of the Souls
". We pray for the dead especially on Saturdays because it was
on the Sabbath day (Saturday) that Christ lay dead in the tomb, "resting
from all His works and trampling down death by death".

Praying for the dead is an expression of love. We ask God to remember our
departed loved ones because we love them. The relationship of love
survives, and even transcends, death. There is an inner need to continue to
express our relationship with a loved one even after death. Often even more
so after a loved one has died since physical communication is no longer
possible. The Church encourages us to express our love for our departed
brethren through memorial services and prayers.

The Orthodox Church prays for the dead to express her faith that all who
have fallen asleep in the Lord, live in the Lord; their lives are "hidden with
Christ in God" (COL.3:3). Whether on earth or in heaven, the Church is one
family, one body in Christ. Death changes the location but it cannot sever the
bond of love.

Just as we pray for the dead, so we believe they continue to love us,
remember us and pray for us now that they are closer to God. Death can only
be properly understood in the light of Christ's Resurrection from the dead.


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Services for December 2009

Sat 5th Great Vespers
Sun 6th 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy

Sat 12th 6pm Great Vespers
Sun 13th 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy
Mon 14th Meeting of Trustees 7pm

Sat 19th 6pm Great Vespers
Sun 20th 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy
Wed 23rd 6.30pm Great Vespers
Thur 24th 11am Vesperal Liturgy
11pm Matins
24th/25th Midnight: Divine Liturgy of the Nativity of our Lord and God
and Saviour Jesus Christ

-----Fast Free until 5th January-----

Sat 26th 6pm Great Vespers
Sun 27th 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy


9th Hannah Gandy
19th Nicholas Joseph
27th Joseph (Clive); Stephan (Ron); Stephanie (Giselle)
28th Simon Stone


7th Deacon John Mark (2007)

Deanery Patronal Feasts:

20th St Ignatios of Antioch - Belfast

Commemorated on December 20
The Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and
Evangelist John the Theologian, as was also St
Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (February 23). St Ignatius
was the second bishop of Antioch, and successor to
Bishop Euodius, Apostle of the Seventy (September
Tradition suggests that when St Ignatius was a little
boy, the Saviour hugged him and said: "Unless you
turn and become as little children, you shall not enter
into the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mt. 18:3). The saint
was called "God-Bearer" (Theophoros), because he
bore God in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him.
He also had this name because he was held in the
arms of Christ, the incarnate Son of God.
St Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John the
Theologian, together with St Polycarp of Smyrna. As
Bishop of Antioch, St Ignatius was zealous and spared
no effort to build up the church of Christ. To him is attributed the practice of
antiphonal singing (by two choirs) during church services. He had seen a vision of the
angels in heaven alternately singing praises to God, and divided his church choir to
follow this example. In the time of persecution he was a source of strength to the
souls of his flock, and was eager to suffer for Christ.
In the year 106 the emperor Trajan (98-117), after his victory over the Scythians,
ordered everyone to give thanks to the pagan gods, and to put to death any
Christians who refused to worship the idols. In the year 107, Trajan happened to pass
through Antioch. Here they told him that Bishop Ignatius openly confessed Christ,
and taught people to scorn riches, to lead a virtuous life, and preserve their virginity.
St Ignatius came voluntarily before the emperor, so as to avert persecution of the
Christians in Antioch. St Ignatius rejected the persistent requests of the emperor
Trajan to sacrifice to the idols. The emperor then decided to send him to Rome to be
thrown to the wild beasts. St Ignatius joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon
him. His readiness for martyrdom was attested to by eyewitnesses, who
accompanied St Ignatius from Antioch to Rome.
On the way to Rome, the ship sailed from Seleucia stopped at Smyrna, where St
Ignatius met with his friend Bishop
Polycarp. Clergy and believers from
other cities and towns thronged to
see St Ignatius. He exhorted
everyone not to fear death and not
to grieve for him. In his Epistle to
the Roman Christians, he asked
them to assist him with their
prayers, and to pray that God
would strengthen him in his
impending martyrdom for Christ: "I
seek Him Who died for us; I desire
Him Who rose for our salvation... In
me, desire has been nailed to the
cross, and no flame of material
longing is left. Only the living water
speaks within me, saying, 'Hasten
to the Father.'"
From Smyrna, St Ignatius went to
Troas. Here he heard the happy
news of the end of the persecution
against Christians in Antioch. From
Troas, St Ignatius sailed to Neapolis (in Macedonia) and then to Philippi.
On the way to Rome St Ignatius visited several churches, teaching and guiding the
Christians there. He also wrote seven epistles: to the churches of Ephesus, Magnesia,
Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna. He also addressed a letter to St Polycarp,
who mentions a collection of the letters of St Ignatius in his letter to the Philippians
(Ch. 13). St Irenaeus of Lyons quotes from St Ignatius's letter to the Romans (AGAINST
HERESIES 5:28:4). All these letters have survived to the present day. The Roman
Christians met St Ignatius with great joy and profound sorrow. Some of them hoped
to prevent his execution, but St Ignatius implored them not to do this. Kneeling
down, he prayed together with the believers for the Church, for love between the
brethren, and for an end to the persecution against Christians.
On December 20, the day of a pagan festival, they led St Ignatius into the arena, and
he turned to the people: "Men of Rome, you know that I am sentenced to death, not
because of any crime, but because of my love for God, by Whose love I am embraced.
I long to be with Him, and offer myself to him as a pure loaf, made of fine wheat
ground fine by the teeth of wild beasts."
After this the lions were released and tore him to pieces, leaving only his heart and a
few bones. Tradition says that on his way to execution, St Ignatius unceasingly
repeated the name of Jesus Christ. When they asked him why he was doing this, St
Ignatius answered that this Name was written in his heart, and that he confessed
with his lips Him Whom he always carried within. When the saint was devoured by
the lions, his heart was not touched. When they cut open the heart, the pagans saw
an inscription in gold letters: "Jesus Christ." After his execution St Ignatius appeared
to many of the faithful in their sleep to comfort them, and some saw him at prayer
for the city of Rome.
Hearing of the saint's great courage, Trajan thought well of him and stopped the
persecution against the Christians. The relics of St Ignatius were transferred to
Antioch (January 29), and on February 1, 637 were returned to Rome and placed in
the church of Saint Clement.
With acknowledgement to the Orthodox Church in America:

The icon of the Lord’s Nativity

We can identify at least eight elements depicted in the icon of the Lord’s Nativity as it
shows the whole of the Gospel story.
(1) The focus of the icon is the Christ-child and His mother, the Theotokos and Mother of
Light. Mary is seen reclining on a red blanket (symbolising the colour of life) and looks
not at her newborn Son but rather at Joseph. She prays so that his struggles of
disbelief might be overcome.
(2) The star of course represents the heavens rejoicing at the glorious birth of our Lord
Jesus Christ. It is shown as the brightest star in the sky and is what guided the magi
(6) to the new-born King.
(3) The backdrop of the scene is the dark cave which immediately reminds us of Christ’s
tomb. The infant Christ’s swaddling bands prefigure too the burial shroud of our
Lord. In the cave are the ox and the ass – participants not mentioned in the Gospels
but shown in fulfilment of the words of the Prophet Isaiah “The ox knoweth his
owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but
Israel doth not know, my people doth not
(4) The angels are shown sometimes in
two groups – one, a multitude of the
heavenly host praising God, and saying
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth
peace, good will toward men”. The
second announces the news of great joy
to the shepherds (5).
(5) The fact that Jewish shepherds and
heathen magi (6) were among the first to
worship our Lord shows us the
universality of this great event, meant for
the salvation of all mankind.
(6) Bringing gold, frankincense and
myrrh, the three magi were led by the
heavenly star to the manger in which our
Lord lay.
(7) Joseph is seen apart from the main
scene of the icon – showing that he was not directly involved in the miracle of the
Incarnation of the Son of God but was the protector of Mary and Jesus. The old man
speaking to him represents Satan tempting him with doubts. St Joseph loves his wife,
and through her prayers he overcomes this struggle.
(8) The washing of Christ by the midwife is sometimes seen in the icon and sometimes
not. In some churches on Mount Athos the scene has been removed from frescoes as
the opinion was that Christ had no need of washing, being born in a miraculous
manner from a pure virgin. The image is largely retained in our icons as part of holy
tradition passed down to us – showing that the birth of Christ was a real birth and
that the body He assumed was a real, human body requiring customary care and
nurture. The water also represents the water of life and Baptism.
The icon seen as a whole is gloriously bright and colourful. Against the background of an
inhospitable world, the mountains, plants, animals and mankind, the joyful scene unfolds –
represented most perfectly in the figure of the new Eve, the most pure Mother of God.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Thank you

Father Samuel thanks all of you for gifts,
cards and best wishes on his recent
Birthday and for a happy Feast of St.
Michael the following week.
May we all have a blessed and peaceful
Christmas sharing in the real joy of the
Incarnation of God, the Divine One
becoming human flesh that we might share
in His Divinity!

Troparion of the Nativity of our Lord and
God and Saviour Jesus Christ

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, dawned
upon the world the light of knowledge,
For by it those who worshipped the stars
were taught by a star
To adore Thee, the Sun of Righteousness,
And to know Thee, the Dayspring from on
O Lord, glory to Thee

Commemorated on December 4

Saint John of Damascus was born about the year 680 at Damascus, Syria into a
Christian family. His father, Sergius Mansur, was a treasurer at the court of the caliph.
John had also a foster brother, the orphaned child Cosmas (October 14), whom
Sergius had taken into his own home. When the children were growing up, Sergius
saw that they received a good education. At the Damascus slave market he ransomed
the learned monk Cosmas of Calabria from captivity and entrusted to him the
teaching of his children. The boys displayed uncommon ability and readily mastered
their courses of the secular and spiritual sciences. After the death of his father, John
occupied ministerial posts at court and became the city prefect.
In Constantinople at that time, the heresy of
Iconoclasm had arisen and quickly spread,
supported by the emperor Leo III the Isaurian
(717-741). Rising up in defence of the Orthodox
veneration of icons [Iconodoulia], St John
wrote three treatises entitled, "Against Those
who Revile the Holy Icons." The wise and Godinspired
writings of St John enraged the
emperor. But since the author was not a
Byzantine subject, the emperor was unable to
lock him up in prison, or to execute him. The
emperor then resorted to slander. A forged
letter to the emperor was produced,
supposedly from John, in which the Damascus
official was supposed to have offered his help
to Leo in conquering the Syrian capital.
This letter and another hypocritically flattering note were sent to the Saracen caliph
by Leo the Isaurian. The caliph immediately ordered that St John be removed from his
post, that his right hand be cut off, and that he be led through the city in chains.
That same evening, they returned the severed hand to St John. The saint pressed it to
his wrist and prayed to the Most Holy Theotokos to heal him so that he could defend
the Orthodox Faith and write once again in praise of the Most Pure Virgin and her
Son. After a time, he fell asleep before the icon of the Mother of God. He heard her
voice telling him that he had been healed, and commanding him to toil unceasingly
with his restored hand. Upon awakening, he found that his hand had been attached
to his arm once more. Only a small red mark around his wrist remained as a sign of
the miracle.
Later, in thanksgiving for being healed, St John had a silver model of his hand
attached to the icon, which became known as "Of the Three Hands." Some unlearned
painters have given the Mother of God three hands instead of depicting the silver
model of St John's hand. The Icon "Of the Three Hands" is commemorated on June 28
and July 12. (Sayedna John gave a copy of this Icon to St. Michael’s when he
consecrated the church.)
When he learned of the miracle, which demonstrated John's innocence, the caliph
asked his forgiveness and wanted to restore him to his former office, but the saint
refused. He gave away his riches to the
poor, and went to Jerusalem with his
stepbrother and fellow-student, Cosmas.
There he entered the monastery of St Sava
the Sanctified as a simple novice.
It was not easy for him to find a spiritual
guide, because all the monks were daunted
by his great learning and by his former rank.
Only one very experienced Elder, who had
the skill to foster the spirit of obedience and
humility in a student, would consent to do
this. The Elder forbade John to do anything
at all according to his own will. He also
instructed him to offer to God all his labours
and supplications as a perfect sacrifice, and
to shed tears which would wash away the
sins of his former life.
Once, he sent the novice to Damascus to sell baskets made at the monastery, and
commanded him to sell them at a certain inflated price, far above their actual value.
He undertook the long journey under the searing sun, dressed in rags. No one in the
city recognized the former official of Damascus, for his appearance had been changed
by prolonged fasting and ascetic labours. However, St John was recognized by his
former house steward, who bought all the baskets at the asking price, showing
compassion on him for his apparent poverty.
One of the monks happened to die, and his brother begged St John to compose
something consoling for the burial service. St John refused for a long time, but out of
pity he yielded to the petition of the grief-stricken monk, and wrote his renowned
funeral troparia ("What earthly delight," "All human vanity," and others). For this
disobedience the Elder banished him from his cell. John fell at his feet and asked to
be forgiven, but the Elder remained unyielding. All the monks began to plead for him
to allow John to return, but he refused.
Then one of the monks asked the Elder to impose a penance on John, and to forgive
him if he fulfilled it. The Elder said, "If John wishes to be forgiven, let him wash out all
the chamber pots in the lavra, and clean the monastery latrines with his bare hands."
John rejoiced and eagerly ran to accomplish his shameful task. After a certain while,
the Elder was commanded in a vision by the All-Pure and Most Holy Theotokos to
allow St John to write again. When the Patriarch of Jerusalem heard of St John, he
ordained him priest and made him a preacher at his cathedral. But St John soon
returned to the Lavra of St Sava, where he spent the rest of his life writing spiritual
books and church hymns. He left the monastery only to denounce the iconoclasts at
the Constantinople Council of 754. They subjected him to imprisonment and torture,
but he endured everything, and through the mercy of God he remained alive. He died
in about the year 780, more than 100 years old.
St John of Damascus was a theologian and a zealous defender of Orthodoxy. His most
important book is the Fount of Knowledge. The third section of this work, "On the
Orthodox Faith," is a summary of Orthodox doctrine and a refutation of heresy. Since
he was known as a hymnographer, we pray to St John for help in the study of church
With acknowledgement to the Orthodox Church in America :