Saturday, 31 October 2009

Services for November 2009

Sun 1st 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy

Sat 7th 6pm Memorial for the Founders and Benefactors of
St. Michael’s and Great Vespers
Sun 8th Patronal Feast of St. Michael and all the Bodiless Powers of
Heaven (see note on a previous page regarding our celebrations)

10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy

Sat 14th 6pm Great Vespers
Sun 15th 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy

Beginning of the Nativity Fast
Fri 20th 6.30pm Great Vespers for the Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos
into the Temple
Sat 21st 11am Divine Liturgy of the Feast. 6pm Great Vespers
Sun 22nd 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy

Sat 28th 6pm Great Vespers
Sun 29th 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy

Namedays in November
3rd Winifred
8th Gabriella
11th Martin Shorthose
13th Ioannes
14th Philip
16th Matthew Carson = Matthew Cooke
20th Edmund
30th Andre Ayoub = Ruslan Davidchack = Andrew Onofrei

Friday, 30 October 2009


Church Doors
Thank you Alban (Robert) for doing a wonderful job of repairing and decorating
our church doors and the entrance porch. They really do look wonderful.
The toilet is next!

First church council meeting
John (Hugh) Maxfield was elected as the minutes secretary.
We discussed our Parish Feast and other possible social events for next year,
including the possibility of occasional Sunday after-Liturgy refreshments in
parishioners’ homes.
We discussed the need for a notice board now that the doors have been
repaired and decorated and the raising of the Cross on the side of the church so
that it is visible above the fence.
The next meeting will be on Monday 10th January at Isaac’s home.

Sihastria Monastery
Father Samuel spent four days at this monastery last month.
It was wonderful and a very blessed time. Here is some information and some

Sihastria Monastery

Dedication Day: “Birth of the Virgin” 8th September

The holy establishment is situated at a distance of 22km from the town of Targu-Neamt, standing in a Sub Carpathian Valley, on a location that was formerly called “Atanasie’s Meadow”. The monastery derives its name from
the name of an anchorite who constructed a skete around which there were living several other anchorites.
The founder of the monastery was Ghedeon, Bishop of Husi, who completed the construction of a church (which was built of wood), a group of monastic cells and a belfry in 1655. In 1734 Ghedeon had a bigger church erected and placed it under the direction of the Secu Monastery. It was also through his persevering efforts that the monastery received a Royal Authorization from Grigore Ghica Viovode, which conferred upon it certain special privileges and tax-exemptions.
In 1799, at the time that the Neamt Monastery was headed by Paisie Velicikovski, the Sihastria Monastery became subordinated to it.
In 1821, the Turks set fire to the monastery. Three years later in 1824, the church was reconstructed of bricks and river-stones. At the same time, there
were erected four tall walls on all four sides of the church, as well as two towers – which made it look like a fortress.
A wooden chapel and several monastic cells were also constructed within the
monastery. Between 1870 and 1910, the monastic establishment remained in a state of total dereliction; afterwards, under the earnest care of some of the
residences, the church, the monastic cells and the chapel underwent extensive repairs and restoration. In 1941, a devastating fire caused great damage to the church.

Due to the fact that it was set on fire twice and remained deserted for a period of forty years, the holy establishment does not shelter any precious ecclesiastical objects or sacerdotal attire, with the exception of the icons that were painted by monk Irineu Protcenco and that were remarkably executed.
In the Sihastria Monastery lived and served Archimandrite Cleopa Ilie (deceased in December 1998), celebrated for his exemplary monastic life. Out of the monastic residents, there is the name of Father Ioanichie Balan, who authored several outstanding studies on Orthodox monasticism, among which we can enumerate The Romanian Paterikon, The Romanian Hermitic Sites, and Spiritual Dialogues.
Since 2000, repairs and restoration have been made and the main church has been repainted by Archimandrite Vartolomeu Florea. Also, a new church has been erected; its patron saint is “Venerable Mother Teodora of Sihla”; the church was consecrated by Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch, and by Patriarch Teoctist on October 12th, 1997.

The following sketes have been affiliated to the Sihastria Monastery:

Sihla Skete – convent for monks, situated at a distance of 4 km from the Sihastria Monastery, Neamt county. The monastic establishment was founded at 1730. The church was constructed of wood in 1813. Its dedication day is the “Nativity of Saint John the Baptizer”. In the immediate vicinity of the church of the skete, under a cliff, there stands a small fir-tree church, whose dedication day is “The Transfiguration”, and which was constructed during the reign of Ionita Cantacuzino Voivode in 1763. Not far from this church there is the cave of Mother Teodora, who lived as a hermit in these parts towards the end of the 17th century and at the beginning of the 18th century. She was born around the year 1650, and was the daughter of the boyar Joltea (the provost marshal of the Neamt Fortress at the time). In her youth she was married, then she retired to the Varzaresti Monastery (which was situated in the Vrancea Mountains) and took religious vows there. Later, together with the abbess, she left the monastery and led an anchoritic life for fear of the impending Turkish invasion. After the death of the abbess, Teodora continued to live as a hermit, this time in a cave of the Sihla forests, feeding on sorrel and wild berries. In the immediate vicinity of the cave, there still exists the hole wherefrom she was carrying water; the hole was miraculously discovered by two monks, who, observing that several birds kept picking up breadcrumbs from the refectory and were flying away with them, resolved to follow those birds. They searched and found Venerable Teodora, who was praying and whose bodily posture was identical with Mary of Egypt, that is, she was raised
way above the ground and was wrapped in a divine light.

Teodora’s inimitable faith, as well as her outstanding moral and spiritual strength deeply impressed her contemporaries, prompting a special veneration of her, which in time, would spread out all over Moldavia and Eastern Transylvania.
In memory of her overpowering spirit and in pious homage to her extraordinary life and strong faith, the Sihla Skete was constructed in 1725. Her holy relics, which lay in the cave for a while, healed a lot of sick people. Now, the relics are located inside the Pecerska Monastery of Kiev, and have been called “The Holy Relics of the Venerable Teodora of the Carpathian Mountains”. Her holy relics have been in this holy establishment since 1852.
In June 1992 the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church canonized Venerable Teodora, adding her to the saints in the Orthodox Christian Calendar and to the Romanian Orthodox Synaxarion. Her dedication day is
celebrated on August 7th.

Skete of Venerable Daniel the Hermit – Coroi’s Precipice – Vanatori commune, Neamt county. Convent for monks, dedication days: “Venerable Daniel the Hermit”, “Prophet Elijah the Tishbite”, and “Protection of the Mother of God”. Between 1936 and 1937, several monks from the Sihastria Monastery retired for some months to a location that was called “Coroi’s Precipice” and built a cottage there. In 1955, long after the monks had left that place; two nuns from the Old Agapia Skete retired there having Father Cleopa’s blessing, and led an anchoritic life for thirty years.
For five years the cottage remained uninhabited. Thereafter, about 1990, a few monks also retired to the same cottage located in Coroi’s Precipice. Then, with the blessing of Metropolitan Daniel Ciobotea, they had the place consecrated with a view to building a church on the premises.
The skete was founded in 1996 and was consecrated by Metropolitan Daniel on August 4, 1996.

Lifting of the Holy Cross Skete – Poiana lui Ioan (Ioan’s Meadow) – Vanatori commune, Neamt county. Convent for monks, it was founded in 1990.

Skete of the Equals to the Apostles Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena – Boureni commune, Neamt county. Convent for monks. The former monastic life of the holy establishment was revived in 1991.

Skete of Venerable Teodora of Sihla – The Pascani Forest – Motca commune, Neamt county. Convent for monks. The monastic establishment was founded in 1990.

Skete of Martyr Meneas at Dumbrava – Dumbrava village, Neamt county. Convent

Feast of St Michael and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven

Feast of St Michael and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven

Admin Notice:

We shall use the Audley Community Centre for our Feast.
The hall will be open from 9.30am to 10.45am for food to be taken in.
It will not be open again until 12.30 – and then to 3.30pm.
Please bear in mind that the Remembrance Day Service at the Audley Cenotaph (10.45 to 11.15) will make it impossible to bring cars along the main road to church.

Chester Road will be open of course.

See the list in the refreshment room at church to make offers of food for the Feast.

Michael, Captain and leader of the armies of heaven,
Unworthy as we are, we beseech thee without cease to surround us with
thine intercessions,
And cover us beneath the shelter of the wings of thine ethereal glory.
We bend our knee, and cry out with perseverance;
Deliver us from danger, O Prince of the Powers on high.

The Nativity Fast | Presentation of the Theotokos 20th

The Nativity Fast

The cycle of the celebration of the Nativity starts with a fast of forty days that precedes the feast. It is called the Nativity Fast or Advent. For the faithful, it is a time to purify both soul and body to enter properly into and partake of the great spiritual reality of Christ's Coming, much like the preparation for the fast of the Lord's Resurrection, that is Great Lent.
The beginning of the fast on November 15 is not liturgically marked by any hymns, but five days later, on the eve of the Feast of the Presentation of the Theotokos, we hear the first announcement from the nine "Irmoi" of the Christmas Canon: "Christ is born, glorify Him!"
This period includes other special preparatory days announcing the approaching Nativity: St Andrew's Day on November 30; St Nicholas Day on December 6; the Sunday of the Forefathers; and the Sunday of the Fathers.
December 20th begins the Forefeast of the Nativity. The liturgical structure is similar to the Holy Week preceding Pascha.
The Orthodox Church sees the birth of the Son of God as the beginning of the saving ministry which will lead Him, for the sake of man’s salvation, to the ultimate sacrifice of the

Presentation of the Theotokos 20th

According to Tradition, the Virgin Mary was taken — presented — by her parents Joachim and Anna into the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as a young girl, where she lived and served as a Temple virgin until her betrothal to St. Joseph.
One of the earliest sources of this tradition is the non-canonical Protoevangelion of James, also called the Infancy Gospel of James.
Mary was solemnly received by the temple community which was headed by the priest Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.
She was led to the holy place to become herself the "holy of holies" of God, the living sanctuary and temple of the Divine child who was to be born in her.
The Church also sees this feast as a feast which marks the end of the physical temple in Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God.

The holy, glorious and all-laudable Apostle Andrew the First-Called - 30th November

Andrew was a fisherman by trade, born in Bethsaida. A disciple of John the Forerunner, he left St. John to follow Jesus Christ following his baptism and brought along his brother, the Apostle Peter. Both are numbered among the Twelve Great Apostles.
After Pentecost, the lot fell to St. Andrew to preach in:
-Byzantium where he appointed St. Stachys as its
first bishop.
-Thrace, Peloponnese, Greece, and Epirus where
he converted many to the Faith
and ordained bishops and priests for them.
-Georgia: he entered Georgia from Ajara, preached
Christianity in Atsquri, built a small church there and left
the miracle-working icon of Theotokos.
-Russian lands: in Kiev he planted a cross on one of the
high hills of Kiev, and he prophesied a city that would have many golden-domed churches, and a bright Christian future for the Russian people.

St. Andrew was martyred in Peloponnese, in the city of Patras. The Proconsul Aegeates' family believed in the miracles and preaching of St. Andrew, and the enraged Proconsul tortured and crucified St. Andrew.
The new converts wanted to remove him from his cross, but the saint would not allow them. Instead, he comforted them from the cross and as he prayed an extraordinary light encompassed him for about a half hour. When it left, he gave up his soul.
It was the year 62 AD.

St. Andrew's relics were taken to Constantinople, his head to Rome and a hand to Moscow.

Kontakion (Tone 2)

Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God,
the namesake of courage,
the first-called of the Saviour's disciples
and the brother of Peter.
As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us:
"Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!"

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Services at St. Michael’s, Audley, October 2009

Sat. 3rd Holywell Pilgrimage. NO SERVICE TODAY AT AUDLEY
Sun. 4th 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy.

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

Sat. 17th 6pm Great Vespers.
Sun. 18th 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy.

Sat. 24th 6pm Memorial and Great Vespers.
Sun. 25th 10am Matins;11am Divine Liturgy.

Sat. 31st 6pm Great Vespers.
Sun. 1st October 10am Matins; 11am Divine Liturgy.

Namedays in October.

9th Fr. Dennis. 12th Wilfred.
16th Denise. 18th Dr. Luke Joy.
23rd Jacovos Harvey. 28th Terence.


19th Metropolitan Gabriel 2007.

The Communion of Children

{This is from the Vatopaidi Wordpress, Mount Athos.}
The anonymous writer at the marvelous French-language blog Moinillon au quotidien offers the following points of reflection on children and Holy Communion, which I here translate for your consideration:
• -Communion is not a magical act; its action is related to a certain preparation and to a certain interior disposition.
-Communion is communion with Christ and with the other faithful in Christ; it must therefore take place within the context of communal Liturgy.
-The entire Liturgy is a preparation for Communion; all people who commune must therefore be present at least from the beginning of the Liturgy of the faithful.
-It is important to teach children from their youngest age to behave themselves in church; even if they do not understand the words and action of the Liturgy, they are impregnated with the spiritual atmosphere and benefit from the prayers of the priest and of the community, and receive the grace of the Holy Liturgy.
The Life of the New Confessor Valeriu Gafencu
An orthodox Christian from the US asked me a few things about who Valeriu Gafencu was and I realised there were no English resources about him. So I decided to translate a little information about his life from the book called Din temnite spre sinaxare (From prisons to synaxaria - about the martyrs of the communist persecution).

Valeriu Gafencu was born on the 24th of December 1921, in the Northern part of Romania, near the Russian border of that time. His parents were both active Orthodox Christians. His father was to be deported to Siberia by the Russians in 1940 for his pro-Romanian activity. When he was in high-school, Valeriu joined an Orthodox youth organization called the Cross Brotherhoods, and, when this became illegal during the second World War, he was arrested and condemned to 25 years of hard labour. He was only 20 and, at his trial, his fellow students and teachers would come and defend him, pointing out his innocence and wonderful human qualities. At first he was sent to a prison called Aiud.
The first years were a time to reflect upon his Christian legacy. He would soon become engaged in a life of prayer, while avidly reading the Fathers of the Church. During the war, although Romania had a dictatorial regime, prison life was not so strict and some fundamental human rights were still considered: the prisoners could go to the prison's church, confess to a priest and receive the Holy Communion and also meet with each other and read books of their own choice. So Valeriu read a lot: the Holy Bible, the first 4 volumes of the Philokalia (which were then just being translated into Romanian by another holy figure of the church, Father Dumitru Staniloaie, who would also encounter the communist prisons some years
later) and other Church Fathers.

His last photograph before being imprisoned

During the time of the war a lot of priests and monks were arrested for various political reasons (and many more would follow under the communist regime) and the one who wanted to live a religious life had plenty of people to turn to for guidance. Under their guidance, Valeriu thought a lot about salvation in his first years. In a letter from 1942 he says: "In life faith is everything. Without it a man is like dead." He tried to live among his fellow prisoners in humility and practise Christian charity.

As he was followed by the idea of sin, he wanted to enter a monastery when he would be liberated. He would confess often and also pray a lot in his cell. With a group of other dedicated prisoners he made a prayer schedule that would go along uninterrupted day and night. They prayed together, as if in a church, and also separately in their cells.

By his deep Orthodox feeling, kindness and rich life of prayer he managed to influence a huge number of people, many of which he never met, but knew him from stories that were on everybody's lips even before he passed away.
His first 8 years of prison were the learning years when he became stronger in faith (he would need this for what was about to come). When the political regime changed in Romania, the prison conditions also changed dramatically: all the previous facilities were denied and the prisoners started to be persecuted for their faith (as well as for their participation in the Cross Brotherhoods). In this incredible hard period Valeriu's word would be like a burning flame heating and comforting the ones around him. When he was in Aiud, Valeriu once encountered a poor man and gave him his student jacket. This recalls the life of Saint Martin of Tours, but it wasn’t his only generous deed. A priest from Paris (Vasile Boldeanu) remembered years later that when he was transferred to Aiud only in shirt and pants, almost frozen, he was saved by his younger brother of suffering, who gave him his warm coat.
Valeriu and his mother in the working colony of Galda
Between the years 1946-1948 Valeriu and other older prisoners were sent to labour in some fields near Galda. There it was a milder regime, the prisoners would work, but they had time for praying and they lived in open spaces, and could meet daily.
In 1948 this working colony was closed, and the prisoners were sent back to Aiud where the communist regime would confront them with its official atheist propaganda. After some time the majority of imprisoned students were sent to a special prison called Pitesti, were they were to be re-educated (here took place the horrific and famous Pitesti experiment). There are many things to be told about this horrific phenomenon, and the remarkable Christian resistance that took place here.

Valeriu was held in Pitesti only for a short period of time because from all the torturing, the cold and terrible hunger he became very sick with tuberculosis (a very contagious disease) and was sent to a penitentiary TBC hospital called Targu Ocna. He saw this as the mercy of God Who saved him from the most abominable tortures that were ever conceived by a human mind and that took place in Pitesti soon after his departure.

An ex colleague of detention remembers about Targu Ocna: "His arrival in this penitentiary hospital was felt by the other prisoners (who knew his reputation) like a miracle. Valeriu would transform this sordid jail living into a truly Christian life. He is the blue-eyed angel who obliges, by his very presence and prayer, to think about repentance and start praying, who would strengthen the ones around him and transform them inside for the rest of their life."
The people that met him during the horrific re-education, comforting, encouraging, raising spiritually his fellow prisoners, compared him with another Apostle Paul of our days. That is way the sick from other rooms of the sanatorium would gather near his bed and listen to him, and receive strength to bear the powerful ordeal they lived. The power of his love would shine not only in the hours of the programmed extermination but also in the everyday life of the sanatorium, when death was so close to everyone.

Valeriu’s power of sacrifice was proverbial: it did not take account of person, ethnic origin, religion or political opinions. At Targu Ocna Valeriu was very ill because of his tuberculosis. In this state, when the sick usually cling to the tiniest hope for survival, he was capable of a supreme gesture. A friend of his was allowed by the wardens to receive some antibiotics for treatment (this kind of medicine was rarely allowed in the hospital, although it was vital for their recovery from TBC), but as he was recovering, he thought to give it to Valeriu who was near his death. But Valeriu donated the medicine to the also dying Richard Wurembrand (a converted Jew who in freedom would become a well known protestant pastor), saying he needed it more. Because of this medicine he recovered and, when liberated, wrote several books in which he gratefully remembers the one who saved his life.

The ones that stood by him along the years remember other extraordinary things about him. For example in Targu Ocna, he was to undertake an appendicitis surgery. When it was finished, Valeriu told the doctor he felt everything, because the anaesthesia did not work. However, he didn’t utter a word during the surgery, only his forehead was full of a cold sweat.

Valeriu died on the 18th of February 1952, at Targu Ocna. His last words were: “Don’t forget to pray to God that we all meet there! Lord, give me the servitude that sets the soul free and take away the freedom that enslaves my soul!” His grave remains unknown for at that time all the prisoners were buried in a common pit and their head was smashed so that it would be beyond recognition. However, he asked to be buried with a small silver cross in his mouth and if God allows his holy relics may be found.

Valeriu remained in the memory of all who knew him for the rest of their life. There is not one Christian book that recalls the ordeals of the communist prisons that doesn’t mention his name. His deeds and words were passed on from prisoner to prisoner and helped many to survive the communist hell, until the general liberation in 1964. Since Romania has become a free country many of its prison saints come to light and are being honoured by the faithful. Valeriu Gafencu is perhaps one of the most representative examples, and many call him the Saint of Prisons (this name was actually give by his fellow prisoners who knew him during his short life).