Finland – July 2014.
Fr Christopher and Matushka Elizabeth were in Finland during July, spending time with their beloved “Finnish family”.
At Hamina, we were again welcomed by the senior generation. A pannikida was sung at the Usano family graves. Father Jukka showed us the interior of the cemetery church dedicated to the Mother of God; Joy of all who sorrow, which is only used a few times a year as it is too far out of Hamina to be used on a regular basis. Sadly, the magnificent icons and reindeer skin banners are showing signs of mould and it is to be hoped that they will be safely preserved.
￼￼Intrigued by the richly embroidered box on the Holy Table ( covering the antimension and Gospel ) we were informed by Fr Jukka about the necessity of “keeping out the mouses”.
While relaxing at beautiful lakeside cottages near Heinavesi, we revisited The Holy Trinity Monastery at Lintula where Father Christopher was welcomed to concelebrate the Liturgy with Archimandrite Herman. In response to the request for just a “few words”, Father Christopher based his homily on a simple story about his first visit to Lintula some 35 years ago. Then, he stood in awe behind a rope which closed off the church to visitors after services; now, from before the Holy Doors, he addressed the congregation before offering them Holy Communion.
Lintula really is a beautiful and tranquil place and just wonderful to see Igumena Michaela fully recovered from the accident of 2 years ago which claimed the life of Igumena Marina, and our guide Mother Kristoduli in very good health.
Finally, Hanko, on the south coast was our next religious port of call and this time for the Patronal Feast ( praasneikka ) of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox church.
Metropolitan Ambrosios from Helsinki celebrated the liturgy. After the Liturgy the procession half a mile to the beach, for the Lesser Blessing of Water, was in very bright sunshine and a temperature of 30oC. This devout fully clothed trail of Orthodox being led by a wonderful choir following clergy and the Bishop. Incense and candles, banners and blessings whilst all around were holiday makers in various state of undress enjoying the spectacle and not minding in the least that we had disturbed their swimming, sunbathing, beach volleyball or sand castle building. There was something quite solid and correct about this witness. Trooping back to the church an al fresco meal was provided for us all to enjoy – with background renditions from the choir of Resurrection hymns and Finnish songs. The services in Hanko are conducted in both Finnish and Swedish and it was slightly more tricky to keep up than usual. May be another time we will focus on the south coast………………