Tuesday 24 September 2013

St. Edward's Autumn Feast

SAINT EDWARD’S MARTYRDOM falls during Great Lent - he was slain at that time lest he should marry and beget an heir -  and so we keep as his principal festival the anniversary of the deposition of his sacred relics here at Brookwood on 3rd / 16th September, 1984. On that occasion, the Ever-Memorable Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) presided at the ceremonies.  This year we were blessed to have His Grace, Bishop Ambrose of Methoni with us for the celebration.  He had been leading a pilgrimage to Constantinople, and arrived on a flight from Istanbul at Heathrow on the afternoon of Friday, 13th September.  He was met by members of the Brotherhood, and stayed with us overnight.  Though he had had a 26-hour day the day before just after six on the Saturday morning, we set out for the Convent of the Annunciation in Willesden, where His Grace celebrated the Divine Liturgy assisted by the Brotherhood clergy and Father Stephen Fretwell and Father Deacon Borislav Popov.  In his sermon Bishop Ambrose spoke of the significance of the Church New Year, which fell on that day, and of the witness of Saint Simeon the Stylite, whose feast day it was, showing how it instructed us not to judge others by outward appearance.  In doing this he told us of an edifying example of a God-fearing lady whom he personally knew in contemporary Greece.  After the service, Mother Vikentia and her sisters  invited everyone who attended to breakfast in their trapeza.   

            Naturally the services for Saint Edward’s day, the Saturday evening Vigil and the Sunday morning Divine Liturgy, were celebrated at Brookwood, and the sacred relics of the Martyr were brought out for the veneration of the faithful.  At both services we were joined by friends from other Orthodox parishes, some from the North of England and even from abroad: from France, Bulgaria, and the Russian Federation.  At the Vigil His Grace led the prayers at the liti and at the polyeleos.  On Sunday morning, the church was filled to overflowing.  Four languages were used: English, Slavonic, Romanian and Greek, with the Bishop adding in a little French and Georgian.  At the end of the Divine Liturgy, the Bishop preached on Saint Edward’s support of the monastics and the importance of monastism for the Church, expressing the wish that other monastic communities would be founded in this country.  After the dismissal, we served the Lesser Blessing of Waters and then made a procession around the outside of the church with the sacred relics, while the choir chanted the canon of the Saint.  This canon was composed by a pious Greek layman, Panagiotes Somalis, a few years ago, approved by the Bishops, and translated into English for us by Archimandrite Patapios of the St Gregory Palamas Monastery in California.  The original service to St Edward, which we chant at the March feast, was composed by the late Valerie Hoecke in Church Slavonic and translated into English by Reader Isaac Lambertsen of New York City.  So Orthodox of several traditions have worked together to honour the Saint. After the procession, when the faithful had re-entered the church, they venerated the sacred relics, kissed the Cross, and were sprinkled with the newly blessed holy water.  Thereafter, we had our usual buffet breakfast, and we owe a debt of gratitude to all who brought foods for that and helped us to feed so many people.  Despite having had a long day, His Grace circulated among the people and spoke to them and heard their concerns.  At about tea-time, he took his leave of us to stay in London over the Monday and prepare for his flight to Russia very early on the Tuesday morning.  We are indebted to His Grace for the archpastoral love he thus showed our community and the blessing which his celebrating with us brought to our feast.

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