Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Missionary Support for 2015


A New Year is beginning with new opportunities for service as God wills. In a few days I will be heading to Egypt where I will take part in a conference with Father Daoud Lamie. While I am in Egypt I will also record 25 TV programmes for three different Coptic TV channels. These will hopefully be useful as teachings materials in our own missionary activities here in the UK.

TV Programmes on the Orthodox Faith



I have been blessed by my own bishop, and by His Holiness Pope Tawadros to visit Egypt shortly. I will be serving Father Daoud Lamie at a conference, and recording a series of programmes to be broadcast on a variety of Coptic channels. This is the text of the first of these, introducing the series, which will describe and explain our Orthodox Faith.

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[Take a look at Missionary Support in 2015]

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Hello. My name is Father Peter Farrington. I am a priest of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate. Perhaps you have not heard of the British Orthodox Church before? It is a small community of Orthodox Christians, with an English bishop, Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury, which was brought into union with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate through the imaginative and gracious activity of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III in 1994. The British Orthodox Church is committed to Orthodox missionary service in the United Kingdom, where we are sharing our Orthodox Faith with all those who live among us.
We worship in the English language, and we are living proof that it is possible to be authentically Western and European, while also preserving and experiencing a traditional Orthodoxy.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Letters from a Desert Place - 1


Dear Father Peter,

I wanted to send a short message to say how much I enjoyed meeting you yesterday. If it hadn't started raining so heavily I'm not sure I would have come into your Church. I've passed it many times of course, and I told you that I have had a vague interest in Orthodoxy for some years. But the door was open and I didn't have a coat, so I found myself in the middle of the Liturgy.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Homily for the Sunday before Christmas

I want to speak this morning about one of the most famous of the saints of the first centuries of the church. It is the feast day today of Ignatius, the second bishop of Antioch. The city where the believers were first called Christians.

I would also like us to have in mind a passage from the reading of the Gospel today. It is found at the end of our lection and says..

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel. (Luke 1:80)

Sunday, 7 December 2014

God, I'm confused?

Luke 1:26-38
Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."
I would like us to consider just one verse from our reading in the Gospel today. It is one we have considered before since it is in the account of the Annunciation of the incarnation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary.
The verse I would like us to think about for a few minutes occurs at the end of this passage, and it is the words which the Virgin Mary addresses to the angel Gabriel. She says,
Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.
I would like us to reflect on this verse and see if we can learn a few lessons for our own spiritual life. Certainly the Virgin Mary is held up to us as an example, indeed THE example of an entirely human life transformed by union with God. When our Lord says to the Apostle John, ‘Behold, your mother’, the Church has understood that in some sense the Virgin Mary was the mother of all Christians. Both offering a mother’s intercession, and always having a mother’s care. Certainly after the resurrection and ascension of our Lord she is always found with the Church, indeed in the middle of the early Christian community.
But returning to this verse, in the first place we must remember that the Virgin Mary has had an experience of God communicating his will to her far beyond anything which we might ever dream could possibly happen to us. God speaks to us, certainly, but usually in a more mundane and prosaic manner. We read the Bible and a verse or passage stands out as applying particularly to our situation. Or we hear a sermon, or we receive some advice. Or perhaps during prayer we have a strong sense of assurance and peace. God speaks to us in all of these ways, and many others.
We might think that the Virgin Mary was blessed by having such a clear and straightforward message conveyed to her with the certainty of an angelic visitor. In our case we are often left wondering what exactly God is doing in our lives, and what he requires of us.
Sometimes we might think that everything would be clearer if an angel came to explain God’s will to us. But we only have to remember this passage and we are reminded that in the case of the Virgin Mary, and that of Zechariah before her, in fact the presence of an angel is not always a guarantee of being able to perfectly understand God’s will.
We can see that the Virgin Mary was not at all sure HOW God’s will would be worked out in her life, but she did not doubt that it would be. And this attitude teaches us that it is possible also in our own lives to be both ignorant of HOW God will work out his purposes for our good, and also be entirely sure in faith that He will do so.
Let us hear the words of the Lord in Jeremiah,
Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Now if we believe this, if we trust that God will work out His plans for us, plans to prosper us and give us hope, then we will be able to answer as the Virgin Mary does. It seems to me there are two aspects to the attitude she displays.
Firstly she considers herself to be the handmaid of the Lord. This part of her reply shows us that it is necessary also for us to accept that in our own lives we are the servants of God, and not the masters and mistresses of our own destinies. When we try to take care of everything for ourselves we find that we do not have the strength or the ability to do so. Things start to fall to pieces when we trust only in ourselves. But if we are servants of the Lord then this changes everything. Our lives are not our own. They do not belong to us, and so we can hand over the responsibility for our lives to the one who owns them, the one who is our Master and Lord. We are free to seek first the kingdom of God, and then we discover that all of the other things we need are provided for us.
Secondly, she asks that her life be worked out according to God’s will. Let it be to me according to your word. This is not a sense of fatalism, as if we have to just meekly put up with whatever a capricious and pitiless God chooses to happen to us. On the contrary, we believe in a God who loves us so much that He became human and suffered for us so that we might be united to him forever. When we trust in this loving Father there is no fear that he wishes us to be caused pain and hurt. Rather we believe that in the circumstances of our human pain and hurt we will find that he is already there and bringing us peace and patience. Indeed he has already shared our human experiences. He knows pain and hurt. He knows what it is to be rejected. He knows what it is to be hungry and thirsty. He knows what it is to shrink back from the future.
There are many times in my own life when I see something happening and I pray, ‘Lord, not again’. But in fact we know that the problems we face as humans run much deeper than the practical ones, and even the person who seems to have no practical problems has plenty of others to face. And the person who has no job worries has many others. And the person who has no periods of loneliness has many other problems to face. It is part of our human condition and experience as Christians to face daily the challenges which are particularly our own. We should not be surprised that we are often called to face difficulties of many kinds with faith and hope. But we can believe that God has a purpose for us in the middle of these difficult situations. He does not take us out of the fiery furnace, but like the three young men of the Old Testament, we discover that he is standing with us. He does not take us out of the Lion’s Den, but he shuts the lion’s mouths.
If our God is the Lord of our lives, so that they belong to him, then we can have the confidence to ask that He works out His will, in His time, and in His way because we know that He will not allow His servants to come to harm. Let me read that passage from Jeremiah again,
Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
If we believe this then we can pray with confidence,
Behold the servant or the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.
May the Lord give us grace to hand over our lives entirely to His service and to his Glory, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Give what you have to the poor

A homily for Mark 10:17-31

Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, "You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me."

It is always wise to study a passage of Scripture in its context, rather than as a small fragment of text that is isolated from everything else in the Gospels. In the case of the passage from the Gospel of St Mark which we have just heard we would find that there were three people or groups of people whom Jesus met on the way that day.

The first group were some Pharisees who sought to tempt Jesus and came to him without any sense of wishing to learn anything for their salvation. They were hoping that he would say something which would expose him as a false prophet, or would allow them to seek his prosecution as a rabble rouser. They asked him questions about the Law, and especially that of divorce, but Jesus made it clear that their hearts were hardened and they were unreceptive to what he had to say. His words were like seed falling on hard, baked soil.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Hate your father and mother?

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

This Gospel reading teaches us with strong and shocking words that we must not allow even our normal family and social relationships to stand in the way of service to Christ. If we have decided to follow Christ then it must be with our whole heart and soul and mind. Perhaps in the West it has become very easy for people to become Christians without considering the cost. Perhaps the Christian life has been presented to them in a one-sided manner where only the benefits are described, where Christ is our Saviour and Friend, as indeed He is. But He is more than that. He is our Lord and our King, and God Himself. He cannot be our Saviour and Friend unless we recognize Him as Lord and Master as well.

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Orthodox Way of Prayer - Moorlands Lecture

Good morning to you all. My name is Peter Farrington, and I am a graduate of Moorlands Bible College. I think I finished my three years of study here in 1988. I completed the Moorlands Diploma and then stayed to take the Advanced Diploma in Mission Studies. I am from an evangelical background in the Brethren, but I became Orthodox in 1994, and was ordained a priest and pastor of the Orthodox Church in 2009. I belong to the British Orthodox Church, a small missionary community within the much larger Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and I am an Orthodox missionary supporting the development of new communities of Orthodox Christians in various places around the UK.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Orthodox Way of Prayer - Quietness

It is in silence that the first signs of the life of prayer reveal themselves. The Spirit of God does not force Himself upon us. He is gentle as a dove. When the Lord told Moses that He would appear to him we read that He was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire. But He spoke with Moses in a still, small voice.

We cannot hear that voice unless we become still, and for the one beginning in prayer, we cannot easily become still, if at all, unless we seek that exterior silence that allows us to discover an inner place of peace within us.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Can the Oriental Orthodox receive the Eastern Orthodox Councils?

At the beginning of the 21st century it seems that the relationship between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox communities is as close as it has been for centuries. There certainly remain those within the Eastern Orthodox community who perhaps view the Oriental Orthodox community through a prism of lack of knowledge and misrepresentation, some of which is due to the lack of proper explanation by the Oriental Orthodox themselves. But increasingly it has become impossible for Eastern Orthodox to doubt that Oriental Orthodox have always confessed the perfect and complete humanity of Christ. In a growing number of congregations around the world there is a pastorally based reception to communion of lay members from other Orthodox communities. While formal agreements allowing communion between various Orthodox communities, and even proposals for reunion from senior Eastern and Oriental Orthodox hierarchs, suggest that an opportunity to explore the possibility of unity has now presented itself as both a challenge and encouragement.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Orthodox Mission Conference - Venice, 2014

My plans to send a daily report were frustrated by the business of the schedule at the conference, which left me very little free time, and by the complete lack of a reliable internet connection. I ended up paying for some small amount of mobile data just to stay in touch with the world

In am now staying at the monastery in a pleasant guest room and there is internet!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Delusion of Seeking Happiness - Extended Version

We all want to be happy surely? Isn't it reasonable and completely normal for Christians in the 21st century to want to enjoy the Christian life and find it a source of happiness? Even the United States Declaration of Independence set the nation on the pursuit of happiness above much else, saying..

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Here we see that happiness is not merely a hope for the future of each citizen, but is considered to be a right that is given by God. Well it may certainly be a widespread aspiration among Christians in the West, but it is hardly the experience of most Christians in the world, and throughout history. Indeed the search for personal happiness can reasonably be considered a measure of our immaturity and self-interest rather than a legitimate aspect of the character of the Christian Faith.

Monday, 22 September 2014

How to love God more

In the Gospel reading for today we have heard how a woman who was a sinner approached our Lord while he was a guest at the house of a Pharisee, and how in her love for him she washed his feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and anointed him with fragrant oil. Our Lord was criticised by the Pharisee for allowing a sinful person to touch him, but our Lord used the occasion to tell a parable. The parable described how the measure of a person’s love for God is proportional to the sense which that person had of the forgiveness which had been received by them.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Being a Missionary Church

In the Gospel reading for today we have heard how a woman who was a sinner approached our Lord while he was a guest at the house of a Pharisee, and how in her love for him she washed his feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and anointed him with fragrant oil. Our Lord was criticised by the Pharisee for allowing a sinful person to touch him, but our Lord used the occasion to tell a parable. The parable described how the measure of a person’s love for God is proportional to the sense which that person had of the forgiveness which had been received by them.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Orthodox Mission Report - September 10th

Last Saturday we were able to organise the Orthodox Way of Prayer at St Andrew's Church of England in Windsor. This was the third presentation of this much appreciated study day. The ancient Church of St Andrew, over one thousand years old, is used by the British Orthodox Community of St Andrew for the liturgy and other services which are conducted each month.

There was a very engaged and communicative group of participants. I gave several talks on the Orthodox spirituality of prayer with time for discussion and practical exercises. And Annie, a wonderful iconographer and member of our Orthodox Community of St Andrew in Windsor gave an illustrated lecture on icons. We shared a simple buffet lunch together with much conversation and warm fellowship. The event began with the hour of Prime and concluded with the hour of None.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Hyper-Grace is no Grace!



It seems that in recent years, and it was hardly evident in the evangelicalism in which I grew up, a teaching has taken hold which emphasizes the grace of God to the exclusion of other vital teachings such as repentance and confession of sin. Indeed the teachers of hyper-grace maintain that all sin, past, present, and future, has already been forgiven, and therefore there is no need for a believer to ever worry about it. Hyper-grace teaching says that, when God looks at us, He sees only a holy and righteous people.
This is not a new teaching. We find it recorded even in the New Testament, where St Paul had to oppose it. There were those who suggested that since grace had been given where there was sin, then to continue in sin was to invite more grace. This is the basis of the hyper-grace teaching. If everything depends on God, and if already he sees us as entirely sinless and perfect, then we can do what we want, live how we like, and need make no effort at all. Indeed worse than simply believe we need do nothing, this hyper-grace teaching actively rejects any sense of repentance, any ascetical or spiritual effort, as being itself contrary to God’s will, since it suggests that Christians need to get on and change the quality of their lives.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

What sort of persons should we be?



Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness. 2 Peter 3:11
In the calendar of the Coptic Orthodox Church this Sunday is the only Sunday in the little month of Nasi, which contains only 5 or 6 days. Each month in the ancient Coptic, or Egyptian, calendar contains 30 days, and so this little month makes up the necessary difference to complete the number of days in the year. In the Coptic Orthdoox Church, and for many Orthodox Churches, this period comes at the beginning of the Church year. Therefore the readings for the Liturgy today are to do with times and seasons. 

I would like us especially to consider the reading from the Second Catholic Epistle of St Peter. St Peter is considering the question – Where is God? Why has He not appeared to bring an end to all things? Why do we have to wait for God to act?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Experiencing Community - Step One

There is so much to study, research and reflect on when considering the creation of an intentional community. But I have already noted that we would all wish to experience Christian community in our own congregations. More than that, we surely wish to experience a richer and more transforming sense of community in all those relations we have with those closest to us.

Over the next few blog posts I will propose several steps that we might want to take which will help us to become those people among whom community is formed. We can remember from the Acts of the Apostles that those who were members of the first Church were those who had all things in common, not thinking especially of material possessions at first, but that sharing of the heart and life which is the necessary basis of Christian community.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Everything in Common

In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2 v 44-47, it is written of the early Christian church in Jerusalem,

And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Living together in Orthodox Community?

I was recently inspired by news of the sale of a small and very remote Canadian mining township to give serious thought to the possibilities of developing a practical and fruitful expression of Orthodox community in the UK. This has been on my heart for many years, and raising the possibility of an Orthodox community on the internet led to me receiving many messages of encouragement, and even of definite commitment.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Orthodox Mission Report - August 26th

I am about to leave my home to drive up to Stoke on Trent. It's quite a long drive. Perhaps three and half hours there and the same back late tonight. It's raining heavily so I will have to drive more slowly and carefully than usual. Why do I bother to spend seven or eight hours travelling to a city far away? The answer is that it is because God is at work in that place, and in many other places around the UK. In Stoke I am supporting and pastoring the little Orthodox Community of St Chad as new opportunites for Orthodox service and outreach are developing, and every visit among them is an encouragement.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Submit to God

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

I would like us to spend a little while considering the passage we heard read to us from the Catholic Epistle of St James this morning.

Now it is never a good idea to take a passage out of its context. So let us remind ourselves of the substance of St James teaching throughout his short letter. Then we will be better able to read and understand the passage within the framework of St James’ argument.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Secret of Growth in the Christian Life

What is the secret of growth in the Christian life? We might think it is deciding to be holy, or deciding to be active in ministry of one kind or another. We might consider that it is found in attending many Church services, or in learning hymns and prayers. All of these, and many more practices and disciplines of the Christian life are necessary aspects of what it means to be a Christian.

But having become a Christian, this verse provides the secret to growth in the life in Christ.

Monday, 11 August 2014

He cannot deny himself - 2 Timothy 2:13

I noticed a quotation scroll up my Facebook newsfeed this morning. It stood out because not only had the Scriptural verse being referenced been taken out of context, but it had been so completely abused that it was being made to say the very opposite to that which the Apostle Paul had intended.

This would not matter so much if it were simply a verse describing which town in Asia Minor St Paul was intending to visit, or if it involved an edited list of Christians that St Paul was addressing his letter to. But in fact in this instance it was a matter of great importance to our very understanding of God and salvation, and the misuse of the passage could very easily cause those embracing it to hold an entirely erroneous view of their relationship to God.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Orthodox Christology - Second Edition

Orthodox Christology


A new, second edition, of this collection of papers by Father Peter Farrington of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate is now available for purchase as a paperback.

This new edition contains additional papers, and one paper which has never been published elsewhere before. The volume has now increased to over 350 pages of interesting and useful content.

These papers are of significant interest to those studying Orthodox Christology, and those interested in understanding the perspective of the Oriental Orthodox communion of Churches.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A Homily on the Parable of the Vineyard

Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. Luke 20:9

I would like us to briefly consider a few points from the Gospel reading we have just heard. Our Lord provides a parable to teach a spiritual lesson to his disciples. A parable is a story with a meaning, a way of graphically communicating a truth which might be much harder to grasp. What is this parable all about? It is a description of the history of mankind’s rejection of God’s tender and loving approaches. The Old Testament records for us what happened as God gave his people, Israel, opportunity after opportunity to turn to him, to be faithful to him, and to become truly his own people, a witness for the whole world.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Orthodox Mission Report - 28th July

Through the prayers of many faithful people it was made possible to travel quite extensively last week. It's very warm here in the UK at the moment, and driving in busy traffic can be draining, although I have found myself granted concentration and alertness by the involvement in mission which God grants me.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Orthodox Way of Prayer - New Book

The successful Orthodox Way of Prayer is being organised in a further three locations over the next few months. To support this study day programme Father Peter Farrington is researching and writing a book, The Orthodox Way of Prayer, which is an accessible introduction to the Orthodox spiritual life, ideal for Orthodox and those exploring Orthodoxy.

The volume will be published on December 1st, 2014 in a paperback and a hardback edition.
This book will contain a complete course in Orthodox Prayer directed at the ordinary Orthodox Christian and those interested in learning about Orthodoxy. It will be serious and comprehensive without being overly technical or complicated.

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Prayer of the Heart


Father Peter Farrington

Let us now consider together the unceasing prayer of the heart which is the object of Orthodox spirituality, representing as it does that perpetual living in the presence of God which is our life and salvation. Within Orthodoxy the heart is the place where each of us may meet God within us. It is the centre of our being and to pray with the heart is to pray truly. The prayer of the heart is unceasing prayer since it is not the action of the mind or will but the disposition of one’s whole being towards God.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Homily for Sunday 7th July - Who is the greatest?

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Matt 18:1
Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? What sort of question is that for any followers of Jesus to ask? Of course I am sure that the disciples understood that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord of he Kingdom of Heaven, but they meant to ask ‘which of us is most important?’ The had their eyes on each other. Who seemed closest to Jesus? Who did he talk to? Was there any way of working out in which order of importance Jesus thought of them?

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Homily for the Feast of the Apostles

I wonder if any of you here have been following the World Cup competition which has been taking place over the last few weeks, and which has now entered the knock out stages, unfortunately without England’s participation. I visited Bluewater Shopping Centre yesterday, and the Adidas store were inviting people to choose whether Brazil or Chile would win the match which took place last night as part of a competition to win some vouchers for their new store. I entered the competition and hoped that Chile would win. Of course I really wanted England to win, or at least progress further than they did. But for the sake of winning a few vouchers I was now a Chile supporter.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Developing a Prayer Rule

Growing up as a committed evangelical Christian I always struggled to develop a regular spiritual life because I had no models to follow and received no instruction from my congregation. One of the great blessings in discovering aspects of traditional and liturgical spirituality has been to find a whole science of spirituality already described in great detail. Part of this includes the encouragement to develop a prayer rule, a spiritual regime tailored to our own experience and circumstances. Now we might well imagine that we should not set out on such a course unless we have a spiritual guide, and in the case where we are members of a congregation and have access to a pastor and priest, it is always best to seek such advice.

Necromancy and the Intercession of the Saints

There are those among Protestants who consider that seeking the intercession of the saints is the same as necromancy, and is forbidden by Deuteronomy 18 which says…

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
Now in this passage we see that the Jewish people were forbidden to adopt the practices of the nations around them. But let us be clear, there is no comparison between asking the intercession of those faithful Christians who have departed to be with Christ in Paradise, indeed asking them to pray for us before God, and all these vile and depraved practices which are forbidden.

MISSIONARY DIARY - 26th JUNE

Today has been fruitful and useful. I drove down to Farnham in Surrey to meet Chris, and to discuss the future development of Orthodox missionary activities there. I met him at the Anglican Church of St Peter, Wrecclesham, Farnham. It is an attractive Victorian building full of air and light. The sanctuary is very spacious and it is an ideal location for the Orthodox Way of Prayer event I am organising for Saturday, 26th July.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Diaconate in the Orthodox Church - Part 1

It might be tempting to begin a study of the diaconate with the canons of the councils and Fathers, or the history of the development of its various ranks. But this would seem to me to be a great mistake. Before considering the duties and categories of the diaconate it is surely necessary to consider the character and substance required in those called to such ministry. We must ask what sort of person a deacon, both male and female, should be, before we ask what they should do.

Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

In this study we are going to consider the words of the prayer which our Lord and Saviour taught his disciples. It is found in both the Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke, and we will examine the context in which it is placed. It is not random, but is in a section of each Gospel which is concerned with the character of the person who prays. In that of St Matthew Chapter 6 we find it in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. In that of St Luke Chapter 11 we find it just after the account of Mary and Martha’s different response to the presence of Christ as a guest in their home.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Homily for Third Sunday of Baouna

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:11

I would like us to spend a few moments this morning considering the reading from the book of the Acts of the Apostles. I usually preach from the passage in the Gospel, but while I was considering the lections for this Sunday it was the reading from Acts which attracted my attention. The passage contains a description of a small part of St Paul’s missionary journeys in Asia Minor. He had been travelling through a number of towns and cities and found himself in Thessalonica with Silas, his partner in this apostolic ministry. They stayed in Thessalonica for three weeks and preached in the synagogue, as was their custom.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Building a Spiritual Temple

The greatest of church buildings in East or West have the effect of lifting the soul to worship God. They are the most fitting locations for the gathering together of the Church in celebration of the Liturgy and to offer praise and prayer. But beyond the wonder of the most beautiful of architecture and decoration, the construction of the spiritual temple built together from the living stones of the lives of men and women, is that which delights the heart of God above all.

It is this spiritual temple which will last into eternity when even the greatest of churches and cathedrals have crumbled. It is this spiritual temple which is already the New Jerusalem in which God dwells, and which will be revealed in the last days.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Great Delusions - #3 - Only Spontaneous Is Spiritual!

There is a widespread delusion, which has been introduced only in recent times, which suggests that liturgical prayer is not spiritual and that only spontaneous prayers are pleasing to God. This was certainly what I was taught. Spontaneous words came from the heart, it was said, while written down words at best came from the head. I have on occasion decided to spontaneously treat my wife to a meal in a restaurant. Unfortunately it usually happens that the restaurants we visit are filled with people who planned ahead and booked a table. It might appear that my spontaneity is more romantic and thoughtful, but while the less spontaneous couples are enjoying a candlelit dinner, my wife and I have often been left to spontaneously share a meal in McDonalds.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Great Delusions - #2 - It's My Opinion!

We all have opinions about everything. That's normal. During the World Cup taking place in Brazil at the moment, everyone has an opinion, often different to that of the referee or the TV commentators. The problem with opinions is that we can give our own views a degree of authority that they do not warrant and that can not only cause problems, but can be downright dangerous.

In most areas of life we know how much authority to give our opinions. We don't allow people to engage in brain surgery just because they have seen a documentary and have some firm ideas about what is required. If someone insists they know what to do, but cannot show any evidence that they have the requisite skill and experience, then they are very likely to be escorted out of the hospital, if not sent for treatment themselves for mental illness.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Great Delusions - #1 - I Want To Be Happy

We all want to be happy surely? Isn't it reasonable and completely normal for Christians in the 21st century to want to enjoy the Christian life and find it a source of happiness? Well it may certainly be a widespread aspiration among Western Christians, but it is hardly the experience of most Christians in the world, and throughout history. Indeed the search for happiness is a measure of immaturity and self-interest rather than a legitimate aspect of the character of the Christian Faith.

Friday, 13 June 2014

The West needs Orthodox Mission - Part 1

Each day, in our Orthodox Daily Office, we pray to the one 'who does not wish the death of the sinner', and 'who calls all to salvation'. Indeed this same Lord is the one who commands his Apostles, 'go therefore, and teach all nations'. What is the will of God towards our own nation and towards the British people of whom we are a part? It seems to me that our Orthodox Faith clearly teaches us that God does not will that any British people should be lost in the true death of sin. More than that, it seems to me that our Orthodox Faith teaches us that God wills that the British people be called to receive the Gospel of salvation. This Apostolic injunction to go and teach applies to the whole church, therefore it is the command of the Lord that those of us who are Orthodox must teach the people of this nation, of our own British people, so that they also might receive this Gospel of love and life with joy and thanksgiving and become disciples themselves.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Dreaming of an Orthodox Mobile Mission Unit

When my father was a young man in the Plymouth Brethren he joined what was then an innovative organisation engaged in mission in the area around his home. It was called the South East London Mobile Evangelism Unit. It had existed for some years before he was old enough to be involved. But he still speaks warmly of his adventures in a converted Landrover, with a loudspeaker system wired up to allow music and preaching to be transmitted into the neighbourhood where the vehicle was driving or had been parked. As a young boy myself I remember another Plymouth Brethren ministry, Counties Evangelism. This also engaged in evangelism and I can recall being on a large village green in Kent somewhere while a great white marquee was being erected by various volunteers from our Brethren congregations. If I think carefully I can still bring back to mind the great, warm-hearted evangelist who would preach and teach in this tent and in our Brethren congregations.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Homily for Pentecost

But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. John 15:25

Today is the joyful feast of Pentecost. It is the day in the year when we especially commemorate with thanksgiving the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Christ who had remained faithful, and continued to gather together both through the despair of the cross, the joy of the resurrection and the hope of the ascension. Of course it is also a time for us to give thanks for the continuing outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, and even upon each one of us, unworthy though we know ourselves to be.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Coptic Orthodox Mission in the UK Report - June 2nd

During the first half of 2014 there have been many exciting developments in the Mission of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. God is at work in the UK and British people are becoming members of the Orthodox Church through our missionary ministry as God leads us and grants us the opportunity to explain our Orthodox Faith with those who are seeking the abundant life which God calls all men to enjoy. The British Orthodox Church was given the mission of bringing our Coptic Orthodox Faith to British people by His Holiness Pope Shenouda of blessed memory. This report focuses especially on the activities in which Father Peter Farrington is involved.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Homily for the Sunday of the 4th Week of Pentecost


He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. John 12:35-50

I would like us to consider the words of Christ which we have heard in the Gospel this morning. It seems to me that we are being taught a variety of lessons by them. Of course, everything our Lord says is filled with inexhaustible meaning, and cannot be reduced to a single explanation. Perhaps if we review the words of our Lord again we will find a true and useful meaning for our own lives in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. He begins his address by saying,

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Why am I becoming an Orthodox Christian?

This is the account of one convert to Orthodoxy whom I will shortly have the great blessing of baptising and anointing with chrism to bring her into the Orthodox Church. This is the prayerful ambition of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, to see more and more of the people of Britain coming to a knowledge of and participation in the life of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Church.Your support is essential if we are to have the resources to help more British people become Orthodox. If you are moved by this account then please make a donation now so that others can share the same transforming experience of discovering Orthodoxy. Please do not pass this opportunity to support our mission by.

I have been a Christian for only around 4 years and I was a member of a local evangelical non-denominational Church.  Right from the beginning I had a love of Church history. I loved reading about the Apostles, the Early Church and the Church Fathers.  This was a major factor that led me to the doors of the Orthodox Church.

But, why do I want to become an Orthodox Christian?

Friday, 9 May 2014

What is Orthodoxy

Ladies and Gentlemen, Fathers and brethren. Having spent a time in prayer, seeking the blessing of God, perhaps we could begin our day together.

May I welcome you all on behalf of the British Orthodox Church and the British Orthodox Fellowship. We are truly blessed to be able to gather together for an Orthodox Study Day in this ancient church of St Andrew, which has been so lovingly restored to life after decades of dereliction by our hosts, Mark and Faith Wright.

It is always a pleasure to spend time in this peaceful place, and I am sure that we will all benefit from a day of prayer, quiet reflection and discussion of the various presentations which we will hear in due course.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Orthodoxy and Evangelism

I am very aware that in this short presentation it is not possible to say everything about evangelism that could be said, or should be said. So forgive me if I consider just one aspect, and do not touch on some aspect that particularly interests you.
The Orthodox Churches have rather a poor reputation for evangelism. Indeed as I was growing up in an Evangelical Christian community we saw the peoples of countries such as the Soviet Union, Egypt and even Greece, as the objects of our own evangelism. We considered the national Churches in those places to be spiritually ‘dead’ – representative of the Church of Sardis in the Book of Revelation. Of whom the scriptures said,

Revelation 3:1  I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Homily - Bread of Heaven

It would be an interesting exercise to study the Old Testament and find all of those passages which speak of a divine food, or the miraculous provision of nourishment. One miracle comes to mind. It is the account of the feeding of the widow of Zarepath by Elijah during a great famine. He was led by the Lord into the wilderness, to the Brook of Cherith, and the Lord provided him with a miraculous sustenance which was brought to him each day by a flock of ravens. This passage shows the same connection between being led by the Lord into the wilderness and then being fed by Him.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

I want to be Orthodox – why do I need to be baptised?

You are becoming attracted and even convinced by the teachings and practices of the Orthodox Church as far as you understand them. It seems as though the next step is to become a member of the Orthodox Church. But looming up in the distance is the confusing requirement of baptism. Surely as folk who have been Evangelical Christians we have already been baptised? Why does the Orthodox Church ask us to be baptised again?

These are good questions. And all good questions deserve a serious answer.

Monday, 28 April 2014

A Syrian monk as educator

John of Ephesus is an important source for information about the non-Chalcedonian communion during the 6th century. He was born in about 507 AD in the area which is now the eastern border area of Turkey, and was at the time under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Amida in Mesopotamia, the present day Diyarbakir. As a young boy he was placed in the monastery of the Maro the Stylite, who saved his life as an infant. He joined the community in due course and entered into a period of exile with the other brothers as they were driven from place to place by the Imperial authorities.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Orthodox Tradition and the Councils of the Church

I would like us to spend a short time considering the Councils of the Church and their relation to our Orthodox Christian Tradition. There is a limit to what can be said in forty minutes and I will certainly not be describing the details of the hundreds and thousands of councils which have taken place over the history of the Church. Instead we will especially consider what councils are for and how they preserve the Tradition of the Church.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Prayer of the Heart

Let us now consider together the unceasing prayer of the heart which is the object of Orthodox spirituality, representing as it does that perpetual living in the presence of God which is our life and salvation. Within Orthodoxy the heart is the place where each of us may meet God within us. It is the centre of our being and to pray with the heart is to pray truly. The prayer of the heart is unceasing prayer since it is not the action of the mind or will but the disposition of one’s whole being towards God.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Natural disasters in the Sixth Century Chronicle of Pseudo-Joshua.



Despite the apparently universal human need to look back to a golden age of long summers, full churches, and ecumenical unanimity, the reality of human history is replete with examples of chaos and catastrophe in every age. There has never been a century, or even a decade, when there have not been devastating storms, calamitous earthquakes and overwhelming floods and tsunamis. These have been a regular feature of all human societies whether Christian or non-Christian, orthodox or heretic, and have therefore demanded an attempt at theological explanation from the Churches long before this present age.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

An Introduction to the First Council of Ephesus

The first ecumenical council which took place at Nicaea in 325 AD, was particularly concerned with the Arian controversy. This heresy had denied that the Word of God was properly God, and considered him some lesser and created divine being. Later, the second ecumenical council took place at Constantinople in 381 AD, in the context of a great many councils being called here and there, by the continuing followers and opponents of Arian ideas. This second council not only finally excluded all Arian thought from the Church, but also insisted that the Holy Spirit was also divine in the same sense as the Father and the Son, so that the Holy Trinity was a unity of three consubstantial Divine Persons.

A Conversation about Unity with the Eastern Orthodox

From a conversation...

I have also found myself questioning whether the dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox Church will find any formal fruition in my lifetime.  I have to say but I grow both less hopeful and more hopeful as my experience of corresponding with Eastern Orthodox Church members becomes more extensive. Back in 1994 when I first became Orthodox I rather naively believed but all that was required for reconciliation would be a better explanation of our own faith.  But in fact it has become clear that there is a significant group within Eastern Orthodoxy who do not wish to understand what we believe, and cannot countenance reconciliation and union between our two communions under any circumstances, other than perhaps the complete and abject submission of each one of us to the Eastern Orthodox historical and theological narrative. On the other hand, I am in contact with more and more generous hearted and intelligent Eastern Orthodox who do understand that there is no substantial or significant difference in our faith and practice.

Some thoughts about Penal Substitution

It seems to me, from my study of St Cyril and St Severus (which I am not suggesting is comprehensive), that the Anselmian notion of Penal Substitution is very far from their own Orthodox teaching. Indeed I do not believe it is Orthodox at all.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A Preliminary Conversation on the WiIl of Christ with an Eastern Orthodox Monk

I am most grateful for the emails you have sent, and which provide a useful set of criteria with which to consider the topic of the will in Christ. I am especially glad that you have taken time to consider some of the obstacles to understanding which might be presented, and have explained your own understanding of this subject so clearly and precisely. It does help, because when I engage with some Eastern Orthodox online I find myself presented with views which appear to be heterodox, even by Eastern Orthodox theological authorities, or else reduce themselves to a polemical insistence on counting two wills rather than one.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The first British Orthodox Liturgy in Stoke

The first British Orthodox Liturgy celebrated at St Paul's Church of England, Burslem, Stoke on Trent, was a more wonderful experience than I could have imagined. Though even on the three hour drive up from Maidstone to Stoke I suffered from a degree of anxiety that I had forgotten something important. The sun was shining for the drive up, and I was able to spend much of the time in prayer for the event and those we hoped would attend. Without any traffic problems I arrived at St Paul's, Burslem at about 9:15 and started to unpack my traveling liturgy kit and set it up in the Church.

Homily for Lazarus Saturday

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

It is my privilege to be able to address you on this occasion of the first celebration of the British Orthodox Liturgy of St James here in Burslem, Stoke on Trent. I am grateful that His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim and other clergy and ecumenical guests have increased the significance of this event by their presence and participation in the worship today.

Today we are seeing four local people become catechumens, ordinary English people from the streets around this church building. A catechumen is one who is receiving instruction in preparation for membership of the Orthodox Church. There are now five people who have decided to make just such a commitment here in this town. In a few months’ time the first baptisms will take place as God wills.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Missionary Report - 8th April

It's a busy time. It seems that God is working his purposes out in many places where I am serving all at once. Most importantly over the next few days, on Saturday, 12th April, the very first British Orthodox Liturgy will take place in Stoke on Trent at St Paul's Church of England, Burslem. I have been in touch with a number of interested evangelical Christians in the area for some months, and in just a few days four will be made catechumens at the Liturgy, bringing the number of those preparing for baptism and chrismation into the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate to five.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Homily for Sixth Sunday of Lent

In our Gospel reading today we find the account of another of the miracles of our Lord. We might remember that last week we considered the man who had been sitting at the Pool of Bethesda for 38 years, waiting for a miracle. On this occasion we have just read about a man born blind who was granted his sight.

Last week we reflected on how we are often called to wait for the Lord to act, and can sometimes fail to be aware that He is standing before us, ready to perform a miracle in our lives, because we have a predetermined view of how we expect the Lord to act for us. I believe that there are a variety of equally useful lessons for us to learn from this miracle.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Homily for Fifth Sunday of Lent- Wilt thou be made whole?

When Jesus saw him lie there, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? John 5:6 
This morning I would like us to spend a little time considering one of the miracles of Christ, this incident described in the Gospel we have just read together. The miracles of Christ are often used as a means of confirming our faith in his divinity, and his being truly the incarnate Son and Word of God. But this morning I would like us to look at one of those who were the subject of miracles, to see what lessons we can learn for ourselves, as we seek to be faithful and obedient to the will of God.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Homily for 23rd March - The Woman at the Well

This morning I would like us to spend a few moments considering the Gospel reading for today which is taken from the 4th chapter of the Gospel of St John. It is the account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, and it seems to me that it is a passage which is filled with necessary lessons for us to consider and learn. It is too long a passage to consider in its entirety this morning, but let us look at a few aspects of the narrative.

Friday, 21 March 2014

100 Words on the Gospel in Coptic Lent - 21st March

 Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire."

In Matthew 15:21-31we read about the Canaan woman who came to Jesus to ask for her daughter to be healed. She would not take no for an answer because she had a complete trust in our Lord Jesus as the only one who could help her in desperate need. As I engage in missionary ministry I find more and more people who are non-Christians and non-Orthodox who have this same unshakeable trust in Christ and will not be put off by any circumstances as long as they can find the one they seek in the Church, which is his Body. What an example those who wish to become Orthodox should be to us. They should teach us to value that which we have received even more than we do. How great is the faith in Christ of those who having discovered the abundance of life in Christ in the Orthodox Church will not be dissuaded by any obstacle until they receive that which they desire.


Prayerfully consider making an offering to God to support Orthodox Missionary work in the UK. Without your kind and generous support it will be impossible to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of those wishing to learn about our Orthodox Faith. We need your support now.  




Monday, 10 March 2014

100 Words on the Gospel in Coptic Lent - 10th March

The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light.

In Luke 11:33-36 we are taught that what comes into our hearts through the sense of sight will affect us for good or for ill. What we watch on TV, the movies we see, and the websites we visit will all leave a lasting influence that is not easily overcome. In this season of Lent, while we are making efforts to control our appetite for food, we must strive to overcome the appetite of the mind and heart for sights which are unhealthy to our souls. This will mean avoiding many TV programmes and websites, turning our eyes from sights and images in the world around us, and filling the sense of sight with images of Godly things. If we guard ourselves against what enters our heart through the eyes then we will find ourselves filled with light and not darkness. 

Prayerfully consider making an offering to God to support Orthodox Missionary work in the UK. Without your kind and generous support it will be impossible to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of those wishing to learn about our Orthodox Faith. We need your support now.  

Sunday, 9 March 2014

On the Practice of Fasting

It would be hard to consider developing an Orthodox spirituality rooted in the practice of the Church throughout the ages without introducing the practice of fasting. It was Jesus Christ Himself who said, ‘When you fast...’, not ‘If you fast...’.

In the West the concept of self-denial sits ill at ease with the dominant philosophy of ‘do what you want’. But the results are all around us in growing levels of obesity among young and old, and an increasing preoccupation with our personal appearance, and the satisfaction of self.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

100 Words on the Daily Gospel in Coptic Lent - 6th March

If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.

In Matthew 19:16-30 our Lord makes it clear that there is no following after him without letting go of the things of this world. The rich young man had many things and they turned out to be more important to him than the treasure in heaven which was offered. It is not enough to commit ourselves to the season of fasting if we are not also giving up those other things which stand in the way of a perfect obedience and commitment to Christ. Where there are needs are we meeting them? Now is surely the time to test whether what we have is more important than perfection in Christ.

Prayerfully consider making an offering to God to support Orthodox Missionary work in the UK. Without your kind and generous support it will be impossible to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of those wishing to learn about our Orthodox Faith. We need your support now.  

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Orthodox Mission in the UK - 5th March

It has been almost a couple of weeks since I last updated this account of the Orthodox missionary ministry I am fortunate to be engaged in here in the UK. I have celebrated the monthly Saturday morning Liturgy at the Orthodox Mission of St Andrew in Windsor. In the small community there I am assisted at the altar by an Egyptian man who is a Subdeacon. Our Liturgy is that of St James, rather than the usual Coptic use of St Basil, and he has done well to grow in confidence in serving in the liturgical celebration of the British Orthodox Church. After the Feast of Pascha a British man in the community will be made a Reader by our bishop, Metropolitan Seraphim, and will bring his own committed service to the Liturgy.

100 Words on the Daily Gospel in Coptic Lent - 5th March

Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?"

In Matthew 15:32-38 our Lord is on the mountain side with the Apostles and a great crowd of hungry people are with him. What could be done? Our Lord could have worked a miracle himself but he invites the disciples to share with him in his service to the people. He asks them to provide what they have, and offering it to Christ they find that the little provision they have is enough for all, multiplied by the grace and power of God. He asks us still to offer what we have, and he will use it to his glory and for the salvation of souls.

Prayerfully consider making an offering to God to support Orthodox Missionary work in the UK

Monday, 3 March 2014

100 Words on the Daily Gospel in Coptic Lent - 4th March

One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.

In Mark 10:17-27 our Lord instructs us that the Christian way is not one of material reward in this life but one of self-denial and self-sacrifice. We must not treat our possessions as if they have any eternal value. Indeed it is in abandoning our reliance on material goods and making use of that which we have been given for the benefit of others that we store up an eternal reward. This life of the cross, of self-denial, is not imposed on us, but we must choose it for ourselves. There is no other way of following Christ, who has already borne the weight of the cross for each of us.

Prayerfully consider making an offering to God to support Orthodox Missionary work in the UK

100 Words on the Daily Gospel in Coptic Lent - 3rd March

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart

In Luke 18:1-8 our Lord calls us to always pray and not lose heart. We lose heart when we expect God to answer our prayers immediately and in the way we have in mind. When we persevere in our prayer we are confessing our faith in God as the only means of our salvation and the provision of all that we need. There is no-one else for us to turn to, and so we turn to God and offer unceasing prayer, often with tears and in confusion. The prayer of the blind man becomes our constant friend – Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Prayerfully consider making an offering to God to support Orthodox Missionary work in the UK

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. Matt 6:19 



This morning I would like us to consider the passage we have just heard from the Gospel of St Matthew. It seems to me that it is a passage which is full of opposites and full of choices. Indeed we are used to having to make choices in our lives. Where will we live? What job will we apply for? What subjects will we study at school or university? Who will we marry? What will we call our children? All of these can have a substantial and lasting effect on our lives. But we make smaller choices each day of our lives. What will we wear? What will be cook for tea tonight? What TV programme will we watch? Our lives are filled with choices. Some we take without thinking. Others overwhelm us with anxiety and uncertainty for days and weeks.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Seven Secrets for a Successful Lent 6

The first few days of our Lenten observance have now passed. Hopefully you are spending time concentrating on deepening your relationship with God rather than obsessing about the actual practice of fasting. But it is important to fast. When we say that the essential substance of such a season as this is to turn from sin, and to avoid all those opportunities to fall away from God in what we say, and do, and think, it does not mean that actually changing our diet and learning to exercise self-discipline is of no consequence, it only means that it is not the goal or the objective of our effort.

However much we have found grace to put into practice whatever rule we have been given, it is a matter of universal experience that we will face the temptation to give up. And so the sixth secret is this - Hang on in there!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Seven Secrets for a Successful Lent 5

I hope that the first day of fasting was filled with that blessing which comes from seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. When we are able to give ourselves wholeheartedly to God then we can be sure that we have already received the gift of grace needed for such an act and state of self-forgetfulness.

The fifth secret for a successful Lent is this - do something different!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Seven Secrets of a Successful Lent 4

Today is the first day of Great Lent. May the Lord bless and strengthen each soul who is embarking on this spiritual journey today. Immerse yourself in prayer before all else, and especially before you begin to think about what you will eat today.

The fourth secret of a successful Lent is that we must not allow ourselves to play games. I mean that it is very easy indeed for us to start inventing loopholes in our observance which enable us to pretend that we are keeping the fast while actually we are making every allowance to satisfy our appetites.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Seven Secrets of a Successful Lent -3

We have seen that Lent is not all about us, it is meant to be a time in which we concentrate on God in prayer and service. We have also seen that we are not as strong as we think we are and must begin and end our observance of this season by seeking the grace of God even to be able to find the desire to fast and pray in accordance with God's will.

The third secret I would like to suggest is that we must take things slower than we would like. I mean that the experience of fasting is as much a matter of continuing practice and learning as anything else in our human condition. Someone might have an ambition to be an Olympic athlete, but they will not be instructed to begin their training with the same intensity that they might achieve after many years of hard work and effort.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Orthodox Mission in the UK - 21st February

Many positive and fruitful developments have taken place over the last year. There have been doors opening for service in many places without that frantic effort that sometimes we use to force God’s hand. On the contrary, those new activities which have begun and those future ones now being planned seem to be entirely the fruit of God’s providential action, giving confidence that they are in accordance with his will.

It would be fair to say that as the fifth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood of the Orthodox Church approaches I am more convinced than ever that the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, under the leadership and wise guidance of our Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury, is being used by God, and will be used by God, to share the treasures of our Orthodox Faith with the ordinary people of Britain. Those who simply desire to know and be known by God.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Seven Secrets of a Successful Lent 2

As I posted yesterday, the first secret is that it is not all about you, but is all about God. Stop thinking about yourself and ask for the grace to be occupied heart and mind with God. If we are occupied with ourselves during the season of Lent then we have entirely missed the point. 

Let's get straight into the second secret! It is this. You are not as strong as you think you are.

In fact there is no strength in you at all, and the more you think you can rely on your own strength of will to manifest the Christian life the further away from Christ you really are. The spiritual life in Christ must begin and end with grace and can only be experienced as the continuing gift of grace.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Seven Secrets of a Successful Lent 1

Great Lent will soon be upon us. It begins for those of us in the British and Coptic Orthodox Churches on Monday, 24th February. Over the next weeks I hope to produce a daily reflection based on the Scripture readings set for each day. But I also want to consider the meaning and practice of our fasting. If we do not know why we are fasting then we will be just like an athlete who has no idea why his coach is urging him to make efforts in training in the wind and rain and so is not easily able to persevere. Or we will become proud at our success in going round and round the track and forget that all of our training is for a different race altogether.

I don't usually use alliteration but on this occasion I will begin to consider Seven Secrets of a Successful Lent.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Orthodox Mission in the UK - 17th February 2014

Today I am working on the next two events in our missionary ministry here in the UK. On Saturday 22nd February I am celebrating the Liturgy at the Orthodox Mission of St Andrew, Clewer, Windsor. This mission has been operating for about a year now and we have been able to celebrate a monthly Saturday liturgy every month for the last six months. There is a stable committed core of members, with many regular visitors. At our last Liturgy, for the Eve of Theophany, we had twenty-six people worshipping with us, which was our best attendance so far.

The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Orthodox Faith 3

It must be insisted at the outset that Orthodox Christians do not believe that the divinity has its origin in Blessed Mary, or in any human. God the Father is the source and origin of the Godhead, without beginning and entirely outside of time and space. In eternity the Father begets the Son and Word of God, and in eternity the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. We use these words because it is beyond human understanding and language to express the relations between the three Divine Persons in the Holy Trinity. But Orthodox are sure of this, the Holy Trinity, our God, has no beginning at all, and cannot be said to have any beginning in the womb of Blessed Mary.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Orthodox Mission in the UK - 16th February 2014

I was blessed today at the liturgy in our little community of St Alban and St Athanasius in Chatham, Kent. Three little infants were present to receive communion and it was a joy to see them sitting on the carpet of our small church, and joining in as best they could with the congregational responses. I was also able to have another conversation with two Orthodox I will be joining in the sacrament of matrimony in May. In a small missionary congregation it is good to be able to spend time with people and to concentrate on engaging with all of those who have come to worship with us. Indeed I enjoy having children in the congregation throughout the liturgy, it is where they belong, and I could never imagine asking them to leave.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Orthodox Faith 2

In the first post in the series we considered that the Scriptures teach us that Mary is to be called Blessed, and that she had found favour with God, and so was manifestly pleasing to God by her manner of life, and that she was described as full of grace. We also saw that she consented to bear the Son of God.

The Scriptures also record for us the visit of Blessed Mary (surely we should obey the Scriptures and call her this) to her cousin Elisabeth. When Blessed Mary approached the home of Elisabeth her cousin it is said…

Luke 1:42-45 She spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Orthodox Faith 1

It is undoubtedly the case that the Virgin Mary remains a great obstacle to people from an evangelical background considering the claims of the Orthodox Faith to be the one Church which is the Body of Christ, established by the ministry of the Apostles in the power of the Holy Spirit. This would hardly have been the case until the 16th century, as even Martin Luther insisted on the preservation of all those traditional and ancient teachings about her, which modern evangelicals certainly misunderstand and often misrepresent.

But when we are considering the Orthodox Faith we can never start from anywhere other than where we are. Therefore this series of short posts is intended to sympathetically address the concerns of those from just such an evangelical background when they wonder about the Virgin Mary and her place within Orthodoxy.

Liturgical Worship and Orthodoxy 8

We've seen that the early Church was structured around the ministries of Bishops, Priests and Deacons and that the life and worship of the Church was to be conducted according to order and not with the chaos of each person acting as they saw fit. Each ministry, including that of the laity, is to serve within its own bounds, and there is to be no celebration of the Eucharist apart from the Bishop.

We have also seen that the worship of the early Church was liturgical and that some of these earliest liturgical fragments are still used by the Orthodox Church and those other traditions which still maintain the use of the ancient liturgies.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Liturgical Worship and Orthodoxy 7

In this short post I am going to look at another early Christian writing- there are a lot of them!
In this case it is a letter sent by St Clement, the bishop of Rome, to the Church in Corinth, which was seeing a renewal of the disruption which St Paul had to address. St Clement was made a bishop in Rome by St Peter himself – will we dare to say that he didn’t understand the Christian Faith, or had corrupted it? He died in about 99 AD, and so he must have been born between 35 and 45 AD, and would certainly have known the Apostles Peter and Paul.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Liturgical Worship and Orthodoxy 6

In my last post I considered the Bishop in the writings of Hippolytus from 217 AD and from St Ignatius of Antioch, the second bishop there, from 107 AD. And we also saw that the term Bishop is used in the New Testament and in the King James translation. It is the Greek word episcopus from which we derive the word episcopal, which means a Church under the care and authority of Bishops.

In these few words I want to consider the second office which is mentioned by Hippolytus, and by St Ignatius, and found in the New Testament. It is that of presbyter, a Greek word which became the word priest in English.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Orthodoxy and Protestantism

There are those who consider that Protestantism is simply a less complete form of Orthodoxy, while others take the view that Protestantism as a system of doctrine and spiritual practice is certainly not Orthodox, and can even be considered as not being properly Christian. Who is correct? It is not a question that can be ignored since the influence and attraction of some elements of Protestantism is clearly touching the lives of many Coptic Orthodox individuals and even congregations in these days. What is surely required to be able to answer this question is a comprehensive comparison between the aims, teachings and practices of Orthodoxy, and the aims, teachings and practices of the variety of Protestant groups.

Born Protestant, Became Orthodox

Introduction

I was born into a Protestant family. My parents were committed and devout evangelical Christians, and they brought me up to be active in my faith, and in the Christian community to which we belonged. I cannot remember a time when I did not have faith in God, and certainly when I was about six years old I disagreed with my teacher at school because she had suggested that Noah and his Ark were only a story. A little later, while on a Christian boys camp, and about ten years old, I decided to myself that when all of the boys were invited to speak to the leaders about becoming a Christian I did not need to because I was already a Christian and already had faith in God.

St Timothy Aelurus of Alexandria

There are few of the Fathers of the Oriental Orthodox communion who escape uncritical censure on the part of the Eastern Orthodox. Uncritical because based on a few polemical comments deriving from the period of the Christological controversies and failing entirely to take into account any of the writings and historical records deriving from the Oriental Orthodox communities in which they were active.

Timothy falls into this category of unreasonably maligned figures. Condemned as both a murderer and Eutychian, he has passed into the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox histories as a figure entirely without any redeeming features.

Hypostasis in St Severus of Antioch

Severus of Antioch reveals the Non-Chalcedonian communion as being wholeheartedly Cyrilline in Christology. His teachings make clear that there is no substantial difference between the Christology of the present day Eastern Orthodox and that of the Oriental Orthodox, even while the nature of his objections to Chalcedon are given some justification.

An understanding of the Christology of any theologian of any period requires an appreciation of the manner in which theological terms are used, and the meaning being attached to them in a variety of contexts. Nowhere is this more important than when considering the writings of the church fathers of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox communions. In the case of the Christological controversies of the 5th and 6th centuries it is especially important that the terms and phraseology be carefully described and explained. This paper considers especially the use of the term ‘hypostasis’ in St Severus.

The Humanity of Christ

The Oriental Orthodox Churches have often been criticised for professing a faulty doctrine of the humanity of Christ. This criticism is heard as much in the 21st century as it was the 5th. We may respond with frustration that our actual doctrinal position is misunderstood, and misrepresented, but it is perhaps wiser to seek to explain and inform. Our Churches no longer face the pressure of Imperial opposition, and many of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and indeed the Roman Catholic Church, have shown a willingness to listen and learn, rather than simply depend on age-old polemics in dealing with us.

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Orthodox Christology of St Severus of Antioch

St Severus of Antioch is one of the great Fathers of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. In the decades after the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD it was he, more than any other theologian, who expressed most forcefully and clearly the Orthodox Christology of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. He grew up in the confused environment of the Church produced by Chalcedon and intermittently exacerbated by imperial persecution of those who rejected the decisions of that council. Yet despite his opposition to Chalcedon he always remained as tolerant and irenic as possible, being willing even to accept the phrase 'in two natures' as long as the union of Divinity and humanity in Christ was confessed. Yet the Eastern Orthodox have accused St Severus of being both a Nestorian and a Eutychian and the latter Eastern Orthodox councils have anathematised him together with St Dioscorus.