Meditation from Fr Ian on the Ascension
Yesterday we said farewell to the feast of Easter. In our services we sang the full set of Easter hymns once again, as on Easter night, and I noticed many people online greeting each other with “Christ is risen (for the last time)!”, though perhaps we should remember that the Resurrection should remain a constant truth at the heart of our faith, and that the great Russian saint Seraphim of Sarov used to greet people throughout the year with “Christ is risen!”
Today we have celebrated the Feast of Christ’s Ascension, and it is worth pausing for a moment to consider what that means. The Ascension is not, as it is sometimes thought of, simply a matter of putting a full stop on the sentence which tells the story of Christ’s life. And it is most certainly not the point in the story where Jesus stops being human and returns to being divine. According to our Christian faith God became human in Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah (Christ), not by taking on our human nature as a costume which could later be discarded, but by fully, truly and permanently entering on to the human condition. The resurrected Jesus retains his human nature and continues to live with his glorified and resurrected body for ever. And it is surely this which holds the key to the meaning of our feast.
C. S. Lewis, in his book Miracles, offers an allegory of the work of Christ:
“One may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanishing rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the deathlike region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks the surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing he went down to recover.”
That precious thing, that pearl from the depths, is our human life. The first movement of the incarnation is to recover it, to bring it back into the light. But the story does not end there. The pearl is not to be left on the seashore. Its destiny is to become the jewel in a crown. In patristic terms Christ not only restores in us the image of God which had been obscured in the Fall, he raises us up to the full likeness, the destiny for which we were originally created, far beyond the experience of Paradise enjoyed by our unfallen first parents. In today’s feast we see human nature raised to the highest glory, entering into Heaven, permanently united to the Godhead.
This is not just the fulfilment of the mission of Christ – it is our destiny, too. For Christ’s human nature is ours. When we look back over our history there will be times when we say “I am proud to be part of that nation.” There are times, too, perhaps watching or reading the news, when we feel ashamed to be human. When we view the Ascension we should do so through these spectacles. God’s solidarity with us in Christ points us to our ultimate end in him. Because he has gone ahead the way is opened for us to follow.
And let us remember, too, that the Ascension is the mid-point in the story of salvation. “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1) In the past forty days we were repeatedly reminded to “forgive all in the Resurrection”. As we move towards the feast of Pentecost and of the coming of the Holy Spirit, let us reflect on our calling to live not only the life of the Resurrection, but of the Ascension too. May God bless us all in this festal time. Amen.
Letter from Fr Ian & Fr Seraphim to the Parishes
Christ is risen!
As we begin to emerge from our lockdown it seems appropriate to write and let you know how the revised rules will affect our Church life. We know how much people have found themselves affected (sometimes to their surprise!) by not being able to attend services physically, and by not being able to receive the Sacraments, especially Holy Communion. We all want to see the churches open again, and we pray that we will be able to meet again as soon as possible.
For the moment it would appear that we have to continue to keep the Church closed. Although the rules regarding travel and meeting people have been somewhat relaxed the Prime Minister made it clear that we may meet with only one person at a time who is not a member of our current household, that this meeting should be in the open, and that “social distancing” of 2 metres between us continues to be required. We have been told, both by His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and by His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas, that we are to be good citizens and follow the Government guidelines. So, like all places of worship in the country, whether Christian or non-Christian, we will not be able to open up in this phase of the relaxation of lockdown.
However, we are making plans for the time when we will be allowed to return to our buildings. We are actively seeking to provide masks for those who will need them and hand sanitiser for all to use as they enter and leave the Church. Our safeguarding officers are working on procedures to ensure that we are able to adhere to our duty to safeguard the vulnerable, which in the present circumstances means all of us. Once we are allowed back in we shall be ready! We have also discussed the question of what to do about services. It seems probable that we shall be able to be open for prayer before we are able to serve the Holy Liturgy and to give Holy Communion to the faithful. We need to give consideration to the question of whether, for example, we might be able to serve Vespers and Matins in a transitional period before we are able to return to the service of the Liturgy, and whether, and when, the Church might be open for private prayer. Of course, we will need to respond appropriately when we hear what the next relaxation of the rules will be, but Fr Seraphim and Fr Ian are actively looking to find what can be done for our community.
President’s Easter Letter
Dear Friends and community members
As we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection in these unprecedented circumstances, I personally and on behalf of the parish council, would like to extend my wishes and to all of you and your families for a Happy Easter. This is a year like no other, and we have not been able to celebrate liturgy or any other services, including during Holy Week, due to the health concerns around the COVID-19 epidemic.
It has been a period when our community has tried to stick together using all available means; by organising joint prayers, gospel readings and Sunday School online, by contacting each other more regularly, by social media, by reaching out more regularly to some of our most vulnerable members mostly affected by the quarantine. Most importantly, by the continuous prayers and the blessings of our clergy, Bishop Kallistos and Fr Ian and their continuous attending to parishioners’ needs as much as possible in this climate.
I hope that this disruption of our liturgical life serves as fuel for our spiritual life at home, to better prepare us for the time when out churches will open again to celebrate liturgy together. In the meantime, let us not forget in our prayers those who have been afflicted by the epidemic, the thousands who have sadly passed away around the world and our country, their aggrieved families, those who are still struggling with the illness, those who support the people most in need and those who are tasked with combating this illness from any position.
Christ is risen!
Dr Theodoros Bargiotas, president of the Greek Orthodox Community of the Holy Trinity – Oxford.
Some information on how to donate to the Greek Orthodox Community of the Holy Trinity, or directly towards the expenses and the upkeep of our church.
Our community has ongoing financial needs and relies solely on donations from its members. If you would like to make a donation electronically, or pay for your subscription, please consider one of the ways below:
Through Paypal: paypal.com/gb/fundraiser/charity/3247518
or contact our Treasurer, Philippos Atzemoglou , who will be happy to guide you on how to set up one off payments, or standing orders/recurrent donations. Please consider gift aid, which allows our community to claim additional funds on your donation.
You can also donate directly towards the upkeep of our church, through donating into our joint parishes account- please contact our joint parishes treasurer- Bede Gerrard
For donations to our sister parish of the Annunciation, please contact their treasurer or Fr Seraphim Newton.
Easter Greetings from Fr Ian
Christ is risen!
Today and for the next forty days we celebrate the Easter season, and I want to wish all of you a truly bright and blessed feast. We sing "Now all things have been filled with light" in the Paschal Canon, and also "We celebrate the death of Death". In our current atmosphere of stress, uncertainty and fear it is good to remind ourselves that the faith of Easter assures us that nowhere is outside the reach of the light of Christ, and that the risen Lord is always close to us. May this be our experience in the forty days ahead.
During the Easter period we change the pattern of our prayer. For fifty days, until Pentecost. we do not kneel or make prostrations, and we do not begin our prayers with "Heavenly King...". For this week ahead we do not even use the normal daily offices found in our various prayer books. Instead for Morning and Evening Prayers we use a version of the Easter Hours.
With my love to you all,
Virtual Pascha tea party
Communiqué of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (31 March 2020)
With the Communiqué of 18 March, the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced the decision to suspend all ecclesiastical rites and events within its territory, until the end of the month, as well as its intention to return to the issue, should it be deemed necessary by current developments.
Already, because cases of COVID-19 are dramatically multiplying throughout the world, with many casualties, and because, for this reason, the imposition – and rightly so – of strict and restrictive measures continue in almost every country, the abovementioned ban will unavoidably remain valid for the Sacred Center of the Phanar and the Dioceses of the Ecumenical Throne throughout the globe until further notice, depending on the course of the pandemic.
The Mother Church of Constantinople prays and wishes that the appropriate effective medicine to combat the disease will be found soon, so as to overcome this great crisis and to address its effects on society and the economy.
From the Chief Secretariat
of the Holy and Sacred Synod
March 31, 2020
Message from Fr Seraphim for the feast of the Annunciation and the coronavirus
Greetings to all members and friends of our two parishes on this radiant feast when the Mother of God consented to God’s invitation and also when the peoples of Greece threw off the yoke of tyranny.
Let us continue in prayer and fasting for the world and deliverance from this virus which has afflicted so many despite not being able to celebrate together.
May the Mother of God’s fiat spur us on to follow her example of humility and self-sacrifice.
Archbishop's Encyclical on the Anniversary of 25 March 1821
March 25th is a day that brings us twofold joy as we celebrate both our Holy Orthodox Faith and our Hellenic Nation; it is a day of joy, deliverance and hope for Christendom. It is the day on which an Angel of the Lord promises salvation and regeneration to all of humanity. The Angel comes to proclaim the arrival of the God-Man, the Savior of the world. It is also the day we remember an event of extraordinary bravery. On this day we honor our ancestors who declared the Revolution of 1821, the Greek men and women who bravely fought on the battlefields, sacrificing everything, including the most precious gift of life, in order to harvest the sweet fruits of freedom
Our Church and the Coronavirus (Updated 24 March 2020)
As you will know the government has included places of worship in its current lockdown, and the Archdiocese has asked us to follow all the recommendations. I'm sorry to say that this means the the Church will now not be open, even for private prayer, on this coming Sunday, or on any other day until further notice.
Communiqué of the Ecumenical Patriarchate regarding the COVID-19 (Corona) virus (18 March 2020)
As this Coronavirus crisis continues to spread and intensify on a global scale, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is monitoring the situation with an urgent sense of responsibility towards its faithful and all people without exception, and, following the Communiqué of 11 March 2020, upon deliberation of its Hierarchs in the City, announces the following:
1) The Ecumenical Patriarchate emphatically reiterates its appeal to everyone to limit their outings and travels to what is necessary, remaining in their homes for their own safety and the protection of the general public.
Mailing List Subscription Problems
Unfortunately some email requests to be added to the mailing list have been lost. If you have been trying to add yourself to the mailing list and have not received any emails, please try again using the updated links to the maillist.
This was totally my fault - when I updated the address to reduce spam, I missed one of the links on the site. My apologies to anyone inconvenienced.
Schedule of Services for March to August 2020