Thou wast a pattern of abstinence and godly conversation,
A companion of saints and witness of spiritual mysteries.
Holy Father Hybald, intercede with Christ our God
That He may grant to our souls the forgiveness of our sins.
December 14th Tone 3
Troparion of Saint Hybald
FR DAVID’S LETTER
Some wonder why we keep the Old Calendar; only three other parishes in the Deanery do so. As a new parish in 1995, we followed the practice of our Cathedral Church in Ennismore Gardens and maintained fellowship with our brother and sister fellow Christians in Russia. But there has always been another reason which brings with it a blessing. When the day of Christmas was first fixed in mid December, it was to replace the pagan festival of the winter solstice but it was carefully planned that it should not coincide with it.
Hence, Christmas was placed on 25 December and not on 21 December, the day of the Solstice. Over the years, on the Old calendar. the gap between these two days has increased; the Old Calendar moves away from the Solstice by about one day every 150 years. Now 25 December falls on 7 January and so a 13 day gap has developed. We have always thought this to be providential, for, as Christians, we live in the world but we are not of it. In these latter days when people in the world celebrate the mid winter festival with enthusiasm and vigour, it may be as well that we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity at a time apart as was the original intention.
Yet, Christ was born into the world in its hustle and bustle, to save all men and women who would respond to Him. We live in a society which, in fact, is on the New Calendar, not the Old. The Feast of the Nativity in Western Europe in the Orthodox Churches ( Greek and others) as well as in the non-Orthodox is on 25 December according to the New Calendar. As we celebrate this marvellous Feast with our brother and sister fellow Christians, family and friends we should really mark it together.
Together we should be open to Our Lord's saving grace. To move away from this challenge, however beautiful the stillness and quiet of 7 January, may not be the right attitude at all. It is true, that, for so many in the world, the Feast of the Nativity has no meaning and there is a temptation that the occasion is not simply enhanced by some extra and special food and the exchange of modest gifts but by an extravaganza which overwhelms and obscures it.
Yet, it may be that here is the place where as Christians we should stand, even if only in silent prayer. We are reminded of Elijah seeking God standing upon the Mountain:
" a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks.... and after the wind and earthquake....and after the earthquake a fire...", but the Lord was in none of these.... then there was " a still small voice".
At Christmas time, many search for peace, for restoration of family life, for a lost childhood, for something that will enrich life and make it more worth while and more fulfilling, but they are disappointed. They have difficulty hearing and responding to " the still small voice " of Bethlehem. The infant Jesus is made invisible, ignored and overwhelmed by other images and other obligations which crowd into life and obscure.
On 7 January, the world is quiet, even exhausted. The last decorations of Western Christmas have been taken down, now, we can come to Bethlehem in stillness and on bended knee. It is very good for our private devotion and our inner life but it does not help others, the many who miss it and miss the point of it. Perhaps it would be better to proclaim again the profound meaning of this festal time by standing firmly in the world amongst all its distractions to challenge understand the life and world changing message, "CHRIST IS BORN!".CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
A young woman, prayerful, attentive and pure gives birth to a vulnerable and dependent child in the midst of a large gathering of people coming to register their existence and be taxed, in a town full of hustle, bustle, celebration, family re-union and unawareness of the miracle of outpouring of love beyond our comprehension for the salvation of the world. Perhaps that is where we also should be.
May this Christmastide be a great blessing to all.
CONGRATULATIONS AND MANY YEARS
Julian Lowe was made Reader on Bishop Basil's visit to us on 4th October, 2009.
Barry Dryden (John) was anointed with the Holy Chrism (Chrismated) at St Andrew's, Holborn on Sunday, 6th December. The very beautiful new blue altar frontal and falls have been provided for the Church by Barry and Katharine in thanksgiving for their marriage in 2008. They have been designed and made by Frances Thompson. Our grateful thanks.
NEWS AND NOTES
The monthly study group will continue on Wednesday, 20 January.
The next Parish Meeting will be held on Saturday, 27th February, 2.30 at Fr David's House.
PILGRIMAGE TO HIBALDSTOW
Facing the early start and the cold, we made the trip up to Hibaldstow passing near Lincoln and travelling up the Roman road: Ermine Street. The liturgy was concelebrated by Fr David and Fr Michael Harry, with about twenty people in attendance. Fr Michael serves Grimsby and Louth within the Antiochian Deanery and there were people present from Nottingham, Grimsby, Louth, Caistor and Scunthorpe.
The occasion was a wonderful reminder of the unity of the Orthodox Church, with different parishes coming together to worship in the presence of St Hybald and of course Christ himself. After the service, mindful of the traditions of the church, we dutifully located a nearby hostelry. We all enjoyed the good company and delicious food (including some unnaturally large haddock).
Saturday mornings are always a great time for doubt (at least for me), but taking the time out to make the journey up to Hibaldstow proved most worthwhile. The Liturgy, friendship and beauty of the countryside all helped provide the rest and space that we sometimes miss during the busy pre-Christmas period.
BLUE VESTMENT ADVENTURES
One thing I really enjoy doing is making clerical and altar vestments. It is not just the creative pleasure, although that is an important factor – it is experiencing the goodwill of people I meet on the way.
It all started off with the generosity of Katherine and Barry who wanted to donate an altar frontal and some analogia falls to Fr David. The main fabric, crosses and fringe were bought from a shop we tracked down in Thessaloniki. We had been given a little map showing the location of the clerical shops by a member of the Sheffield congregation who was familiar with that area.
After the purchase the shop owner gave us two little bags of incense – one for
the priest and one for me. Mission complete or so we thought. There was panic just before we flew home as we realized that the crosses were missing but by a hair’s breadth there was enough time to rush back to the shop to see what had happened.
On arrival the shop owner shouted out ‘The crosses, the crosses’ and flung her arms around us. She gave us more incense and a small icon as she was so sorry for her mistake and had thought that there was no way to rectify it. The next excitement was with some blue satin. Nothing suitable was available in the usual fabric shops and there was not even an option of a special order. I decided to go to a local shop owned by a Pakistani family which did a good line in salwar kameez, sarees, burkas, jewellery and yes.....fabric..
I showed the shopkeeper the Thessaloniki material (covered in crosses) and said that I wanted something plain to go with it. Trade stopped in the shop. With many oohs and ahhs everyone there came to the counter to admire and stroke the material. The shopkeeper produced some satin (£2 a yard) in what I considered to be a perfect match. The proprietor said that it was one shade wrong – no making do with near matches in India or Pakistan! They want a perfect match and the choice is there.
The next trip was to our local fabric warehouse for some lining. I took the Greek fabric with me and again this caused a sensation with the staff and customers who happened to be there. Again everybody was helpful and anxious to please and very positive towards what I was doing.
The story ends with an extra unexpected bonus. A friend happened to call when I was just finishing the blue sewing. We discussed materials and she commented that she had yards of gold pure silk fabric which she wanted to give away as she had no use for it. It had been bought for bridesmaids’ dresses but the wedding did not take place and my friend had been looking for a suitable home for it for a long time.
So, gold falls will be appearing in the fullness of time and I am pretty sure that during their making I will be grateful to someone for some unexpected kindness. This is quite a humbling experience but I can say with absolute conviction that goodwill is not a rare commodity. There is still plenty of it around. P.S The sewing machine man has just been on a routine visit. We had previously discussed the problem of some materials having a tendency to pucker and with a proud flourish he produced a little box. He said that what he thought I needed was a yläsyöttäjä and here was one which was surplus to his requirements.
JUST A LITTLE OLD MAN
A hospital chaplain rang a few weeks ago asking me to visit an elderly Russian man who was on a rehabilitation ward and who had asked to see an Orthodox priest. I went with my colleague and found Peter (as I shall call him to protect his dignity) sitting by his bed. He was very frail and deaf but grabbed my hand with an unbelievable strength repeatedly kissing it.
As I prepared to give him communion he buried his head in my epitrachelion and wept copious tears, I like to think tears of joy. Peter also repeatedly kissed
the blessing cross. As we don’t know Church Slavonic we used English and to my amazement Peter was saying the long remembered prayers in Slavonic crossing himself appropriately.
No doubt this scene has been played out many times but there is more to this meeting. As I knelt at his side so Peter could hear me better and for me to be able to penetrate the thick accent, he drew me to him and whispered “Don’t tell them who you are or they will kill you.”
He told me that as a boy in 1930 along with his entire family he was sent to Siberia presumably in one of Stalin’s purges. His parents and brothers and sisters died there and Peter spent ten years in hell until released presumably to fight in the Second World War. He told me that when someone died in a bunk you didn’t tell anyone so that you could have his bread ration.
I know very little about his later life but deduced he had somehow arrived in this country and worked down the pit. I don’t know when he last attended church as he did not know we existed. In church the following Sunday I became very aware of a mass-produced icon of the New Martyrs of Russia with the Imperial Family in the centre and surrounded by scenes of the persecution and martyrdom of bishops, priests and people. At the bottom of the icon is a long
procession of people being led into forced exile. At the front of this sad group of people is a young boy in typical peasant dress of the time and I knew it was Peter!
How often we grumble and grouse about things and people in the Church and find fault with and argue about our rights and their wrongs. Think how fortunate we are to be able to do this without any interference or coercion from others. When we worry about the little things that make us unhappy think of Peter and all his young sufferings and thank God for all our blessings. and how faith can shine in the most terrible circumstances. Peter is just a little old man in hospital but, I believe, a great soul loved by God.
Fr George Evans
WHO WAS ST HYBALD?
Hibaldstow is a N. Lincolnshire village and its parish church is thought to contain the remains of an Anglo-Saxon saint. This is a rare thing in Britain as most saints’ relics were either burnt or scattered at the time of the Reformation.
According to the Venerable Bede, Hybald was a holy, austere man and an abbot in the province of Lindsey. As a young monk Hybald was educated with Chad and Egbert and then sent to Ireland by bishop Finnan of Lindisfarne. Probably Hybald came back to England with Chad to help Chad’s brother
Cedd who founded a monastery at Lastingham.
Later, when he became Bishop at Lichfield, Chad founded a monastery at Barrow on Humber and Hybald was probably invited to become prior. From there he moved inland and settled at Hibaldstow.
During some church restoration work in 1866 his remains were discovered in a very heavy coffin beneath the altar and he was reburied at the south side of the sanctuary.
The first time we held Orthodox Vespers in the church (in 1991), afterwards the whole sanctuary was filled with an extraordinary fragrance. We like to think that St Hybald was pleased and was sending this as a message of thanks.