FRIDAY 8 / 21 APRIL 2023: With the blessing of His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe, and at the request of Hieromonk Mark (Underwood), Rector of the Parish of the Kazan Icon of the Theotokos in Cardiff and the Priest responsible for the ministry of the ROCOR in Walsingham, England, on Bright Friday the Priest Mark Tattum-Smith of the Mettingham Parish celebrated the Divine Services of the Altar Feast of the small Orthodox Chapel dedicated to the Life-giving Spring of the Mother of God in Little Walsingham.
At the Proskomedia, Father Mark commemorated the many departed hierarchs, clergy and faithful who had served or worshipped in this small but venerable chapel with its remarkable history, including many universally-known names such as Archbishop Nikodim of Richmond and Great Britain, Archbishop Nestor of Kamchatka, Archbishop Sava of Grodno, Archimandrite Nicholas (Gibbes), the English tutor to Tsar St Nicholas II and St Nikolai of Zhicha, who served seven Liturgies in the Shrine Chapel as part of his ministry to displaced Serbs; as well as members of the local Orthodox history, such as Archimandrite David (Meyrick) and the iconographer Leon Liddament.
After the singing of the Paschal Hours, the hymns of the festal Divine Liturgy were sung beautifully and simply by a mixed choir consisting of singers from the Mettingham and Norwich parishes of the Church Abroad, under the direction of Nun Melangell from the Skete of the Icon of the Mother of God, ‘Unexpected Joy’, in Walsingham, under the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe.
Although it was a weekday in a quiet and remote village location, faithful arrived to pray and receive the Divine Mysteries at the service from many locales and parishes across the East of England — from Kings Lynn, Cambridge, Norwich, Mettingham and Stalham — bearing witness to the unity of the Orthodox faith and the unifying grace of our devotion to the Mother of God during this period of the resurrection of her Son.
After the Paschal dismissal, Father Mark spoke briefly about the history of the Feast of the Mother of God the Life-giving Spring, originating in imperial Constantinople, and the connection of the feast to the Orthodox Chapel in Walsingham. Both the original shrine in Byzantium and that in England were built around healing springs with kings, queens, emperors and empresses as well as paupers and peasants coming to partake of the cleansing waters blessed by the Theotokos. ‘Sadly,’ the priest concluded, ‘both shrines were subject to desecration and destruction, at the hands of Muslims and Protestants respectively. But despite this, the Mother of God never abandoned her faithful children either in the former Imperial Capital or here in Walsingham. Despite the multiple attempts of the Evil one to destroy and eradicate everything that was holy and sacred from both churches, through the power of Christ’s holy resurrection, both shrines continue to be places of healing and prayer, for the Theotokos will never abandon those places she has taken under her protection and where Orthodox faithful continue to honour her Risen Son’.