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Orthodox Christian Missions

Archive for September 2009

St. Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury

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theodore_hartCommemorated September 19

St. Theodore is also the patron saint of the British Deanery of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. As such, there are two very good lives of the saint on the deanery website, both of which I recommend. The first is by Fr. Alexander Haig, and can be found here. The second, which is a bit more detailed, is by Adrian Hart (who wrote the icon to the left), and can be found here.

The following excerpt is the first part of the introduction of Fr. Alexander’s telling of St. Theodore’s life.

On 27th May in the year 669, some thirteen hundred years ago, there landed on these shores, probably only a few miles from here, one who was to become a lantern and a light for the people of Britain, and particularly for the English people. He was a foreigner from the other end of the Roman Empire, who had travelled considerably before arriving here. He had great and wide experience, already a man of 67 years. He was Theodore, who – at what we might have thought the end of his life – started a completely new ministry here in these islands in the western ocean. It was a startling new beginning – completely unanticipated, we may assume, not much more than a year before.

I wonder what the English thought as he arrived: “Fancy the Pope appointing an old man like Theodore to this challenging task of being Archbishop for the land of Britain. He’ll never manage it. He’ll die within a couple of years ago. A foreigner too! Why did that good Englishman the king sent to be Archbishop have to die? What a waste!” – But what a surprise any complainants were to have, for here was a man of holiness, a man of power but of humility, a man of great intellectual ability, a man of great administrative ability, a man of physical strength – and clearly a man of saintly qualities. Here in fact was one who was to alter the course of the Church of the English. Here was one who was to shape the very nature and structure of the English Nation, not just of the Church. Here was a man whose influence has continued even to this very day, thirteen hundred years later.

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Written by Stephen

September 19, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Posted in European Saints, Saints

First Laotian Seminarian

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ThongkhamJune 21, 2009

With the blessing of His Eminence KIRILL, the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the servant of God Anthony (Thongkham) Phiaxayavong, citizen of Laos Republic, converted to Orthodoxy from Catholicism and performing work of obedience in St. Nicholas’ parish in Bangkok, was appointed to be sent to Sretenskaya Theological Seminary (Moscow, Russia) for education.

Upon receiving news on his educational assignment, Anthony (Thongkham) Phiaxayavong expressed his profound gratitude and appreciation to His Eminence, who always considers the needs of his remote parishioners in South-East Asia.

Since his convertion into Orthodoxy and while waiting for Church Hierarchy’s blessing upon his future, Anthony (Thongkham) Phiaxayavong studied at preparatory courses arranged at St. Nicholas Chapel in Bangkok, among with catechism and other religious subjects, the English language, Russian history and the Russian language as well.

Source: Orthodox Christian Church in Thailand
For more about Anthony (Thongkham) Phiaxayavong, see here. (Just scroll down to April 05, 2009.)

Written by Stephen

September 18, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Thailand

St. Lambert of Maestricht

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St. Lambert of  MaestrichtCommemorated September 17

Martyr, Bishop of Maestricht, b. at Maestricht between 633 and 638; d. at Liège, between 698 and 701.

His parents, who belonged to the nobility, gave him a very religious education, and chose as his preceptor St. Landoaldus, priest of the cathedral church at Maestricht. Later, Lambert received instruction from St. Theodardus (668 or 669), whom he succeeded in 670 as Bishop of Maestricht. During the calamitous days of Ebroin, Mayor of the Palace, Lambert, having defended the interests of King Childeric, was forced to flee from Maestricht. While Pharamundus administered his see, Lambert spent seven years (674-681) in the well-known Abbey of Stavelot, where he edified the monks by his saintly life. In 681 Ebroin received his well-earned retribution, and Pepin of Heristal became mayor of the palace, at first of Austrasia, but in 687 of the whole domain of the Franks. Pepin, who liked Lambert, permitted him to return to Maestricht and resume the administration of his see.

Some time later we find Lambert as a missionary in Toxandria, the Kempenland and Brabant of today. In order to spread the Gospel, he descended the River Meuse as far as Tiel and laboured along its banks in company with St. Willibrord, who had come from England in 691. It is very probable that Lambert came in contact with Sts. Wiro, Plechelmus, and Otger, who had built a church and monastery on the Pietersburg, later called the Odilienberg, near Roermond. St. Landrada aided Lambert in founding the Abbey of Munsterbilsen.

For several centuries a controversy has been carried on concerning the manner of the saint’s death. According to tradition, Lambert became a martyr to his defence of marital fidelity. The Bollandists, Mabillon, Valois, Lecointe, Pagi and others held, however, that the saint was killed by Frankish nobles in revenge for the failure of a plundering expedition. Kurth in 1876 critically examined the centuries-old tradition and, documents in hand, proved beyond further doubt that Lambert was martyred because of his defence of the marriage tie. Pepin of Heristal lived for many years in irreproachable wedlock with the pious Plectrude, who bore him two sons. Later he entered into unlawful relations with Alpais, who became the mother of Charles Martel. When no one had the courage to remonstrate with Pepin, Lambert went to his court like another John the Baptist. Alpais, fearing that Pepin might heed the admonitions of the saint, appealed to her brother Dodo. The latter sought revenge and caused Lambert to be assassinated in the chapel of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, built by St. Monulphus at Liège. His heart was pierced by a javelin while he was at the altar. The servants of the martyr placed his remains in a vessel, descended the Meuse to Maestricht, and buried them in the cemetery of St. Peter, in the vault of his parents, Aper and Herisplindis, beneath the walls of Maestricht. Between 714 and 723, St. Hubert exhumed the remains and had them translated to Liège, whither he had transferred, presumably as early as 723, his episcopal see.

Source: New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

Written by Stephen

September 17, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Posted in European Saints, Saints

St. Ninian: Apostle to the Southern Picts

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St NinianCommemorated September 16

Very little is know about St. Ninian. What follows is a good summery of the information taken from Fr. Peter-Michael Preble’s blog.

Bishop and confessor; date of birth unknown; died about 432; the first Apostle of Christianity in Scotland. The earliest account of him is in Bede (Hist. Eccles., III, 4): “the southern Picts received the true faith by the preaching of Bishop Ninias, a most reverend and holy man of the British nation, who bad been regularly instructed at Rome in the faith and mysteries of the truth; whose episcopal see, named after St. Martin the Bishop, and famous for a church dedicated to him (wherein Ninias himself and many other saints rest in the body), is now in the possession of the English nation. The place belongs to the province of the Bernicians and is commonly called the White House [Candida Casa], because he there built a church of stone, which was not usual amongst the Britons”. The facts given in this passage form practically all we know of St. Ninian’s life and work.

The most important later life, compiled in the twelfth century by St. Ælred, professes to give a detailed account founded on Bede and also on a “liber de vita et miraculis eius” (sc. Niniani) “barbarice scriptus”, but the legendary element is largely evident. He states, however, that while engaged in building his church at Candida Casa, Ninian heard of the death of St. Martin and decided to dedicate the building to him. Now St. Martin died about 397, so that the mission of Ninian to the southern Picts must have begun towards the end of the fourth century. St. Ninian founded at Whithorn a monastery which became famous as a school of monasticism within a century of his death; his work among the southern Picts seems to have had but a short lived success. St. Patrick, in his epistle to Coroticus, terms the Picts “apostates”, and references to Ninian’s converts having abandoned Christianity are found in Sts. Columba and Kentigern. The body of St. Ninian was buried in the church at Whithorn (Wigtownshire), but no relics are now known to exist. The “Clogrinny”, or bell of St. Ringan, of very rough workmanship, is in the Antiquarian Museum at Edinburgh.

Lastly, a Western hymn to St. Ninian, which I found here.

Ninian of Galloway,
Homage we fondly pay
And tribute bring;
Saint by our church proclaimed,
Scotland’s apostle named,
Thy praise we sing to thee,
Thy praise we sing.

Born of our Scottish race,
God led thee forth by grace
To find in Rome
That pearl so richly priced,
That faultless creed of Christ,
And bear it safely home,
And bear it home.

Softly the Christian mourn
Dawned o’er the lone Whithorn
Like kindly sun;
Nobly thy loyal band,
Led by thy sure command,
Our kingdom won for Christ,
Our kingdom won.

Where once thy footsteps trod,
Unquenched, the fires of God
Await thy hand;
Renew thy fervent care.
Tender to God thy prayer
To bless our native land,
To bless our land.

Written by Stephen

September 16, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Posted in European Saints, Saints

Chinese Church Consecrated

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20090830eerguna2From Interfax:

Orthodox Church consecrated in China for first time in 50 years
Moscow, August 31, Interfax – Orthodox Church of St. Innokenty of Irkutsk was consecrated last Sunday in the city of Labdarin (Inner Mongolia autonomous district in north China.)

Descendants of Russians who settled in this distant district of China in the 19th century will become parishioners of the Labdarin Church, which was built in 1990. The parish doesn’t have clergy yet.

The Russian Ecclesiastical mission had been effective in China since 1713 and was abolished for political reasons in 1954. In 1956, Russian Synod granted autonomy to the Chinese Orthodox Church and appointed Archimandrite Vasily for the Beijing Diocese. Following the latter’s death in 1962, the Chinese Orthodox Church fell into decay.

In 1997, the Synod of the Russian Church said that under existing circumstances, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II would provide for the Orthodox Church congregation in China.

China’s last openly officiating Orthodox clergyman, Fr. Gregory Chu, died in 2000. He was a priest in the church of Protection of the Mother of God in Harbin. Fr. Alexander Du, the last Chinese priest, though he could not officiate publicly, died in Beijing in 2003.

According to different estimations, there are 9,000 to 15,000 Orthodox believers in China. Majority of them live in Beijing, Shanghai, Heilongjiang Province, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia autonomous districts.

And from Orthodoxy in China:

On August 30 in the city of Labdarin (Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region) the Church of St. Innocent of Irkutsk was consecrated. The temple was built in 1990. (During the “Cultural Revolution” 18 Orthodox churches were demolished in this region of China).

Parishioners of the church in the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church are descendants of Russians who began to inhabit this remote region of China. The church of St. Innocent of Irkutsk is one of four that has an official status in China.

Since the temple does not have clergy, the consecration was performed by Fr. Mikhail Wang, a priest from Shanghai.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s Diocese of Chita and Transbaikal which, by decision of the Holy Synod, has the burden or responsibility for this parish, presented it with an iconostasis, utensils and liturgical vestments.

Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev who is in charge of Hong Kong’s church of SS Peter and Paul took part in the consecration. Orthodox faithful from Hailar, Harbin, Shanghai, Beijing and the Russian villages of Tryokhrechye [3 Rivers] also came for the church consecration.

After the service, Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev held talks with Ms Wang Yanming, from the 4th Department of State Administration for Religious Affairs, who attended ceremony.

To clarify and correct these articles as best I can: Interfax is incorrect about Fr. Alexander Du being the last Chinese priest in China. Fr. Alexander was the last priest in Beijing, but there are currently still two Chinese clergymen in Shanghai–Fr. Mikhail Wang and Fr. Dn. Evangelos Lu. Both are elderly, and until the last few years were inactive. Though still limited in what they can do due to their age and the Chinese authorities, they are now starting to occasionally serve. Also, Archimandrite Vasily was ordained as a bishop to head the Chinese church, and upon his death, and Bishop Symeon’s death in 1965, the Chinese government refused to allow anyone to succeed them.

To clarify the timeline of the new church, it appears to have been built in either 1990 or 1999 (or maybe completed in 1999). But the consecration couldn’t take place because the iconostasis had been held by customs since 2000. So, finally, that hurdle is overcome and the church is complete. The next hurdle is to get clergy. There are Chinese Orthodox Christians studying in seminaries in Russia, and I think elsewhere as well, but whether they will be allowed to return to China to serve is another question entirely. More pictures of St. Innocent’s can be found here.

Lastly, I don’t think the headline “Orthodox Church consecrated in China for first time in 50 years” is correct as two churches in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region have also been build (and presumably consecrated). They are both named St. Nicholas, and are in Urumqi (1991) and Ghulja (2000). Neither of these parishes have priests.

A good timeline of the Chinese Orthodox Church can be found at Orthodox Wiki.

Written by Stephen

September 15, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Holy Cross

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Blessed Feast!

Elevation_Cross.JPG
O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance.  Grant victory to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries, and by the virtue of your cross, preserve your habitation!

The festal tropar

Written by Stephen

September 13, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Posted in Major Feasts

New Seminaries for the Congo, Madagascar, and Ghana

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Congo SeminaryThe news for the seminary in the People’s Republic of the Congo is two years old now, but well-worth reporting none the less.

On Sunday 23rd September 2007, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, inaugurated the third largest Theological Academy of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, after those in Alexandria and Nairobi in Kinshasa Congo.

The new French Language Theological Academy, which was built through the tireless efforts of His Eminence Metropolitan Ignatios of Central Africa in a Kinshasa suburb, near the Holy Church of St Athanasios the Athonite, has lecture halls, residences, a large library and reading room, a functions hall, a clinic, dentist and a small health clinic for the needs of the student who will begin their studies on November 1st.

The Congolese government expressed its great satisfaction of this great effort. In passing on the greetings of His Excellency the President of the People’s Republic of the Congo, Mr Joseph Kambila, during the inauguration ceremony, the Minister Mr Nkoulu thanked the Orthdoox Church for its great contribution to this African country and said that the government would continue to encourage its efforts.

This work was completed with the assistance of many Greeks, especially the donor of the land, Mr Konstantinos Sofiade, Chairman of the Hellenic Community of the Congo as well as the Greek Ambassador Mr John Christofilis, whom His Beatitude honoured, the Missionary Group “Protoklitos” from Patras, which was represented by its Chairman Mr Nicholas SImos, as well as the OIffice of the Missionary group “Apostle Barnabas” in Larisa, which was represented by its Chairman Mr Vasilios Stergioulis, the Vice Chairman Mr Haralambos Devetzis and the Secretary Mr Christos Alexiou. Also among the great benefactors is the Holy Monastery of Great Lavra on Mount Athos, for undertaking the costs of building the Holy Church of the Theological Academy.

More recently, seminaries were also inaugurated in Madagascar, on February 16, 2008, and in Ghana, June 26, 2008.

Source: The website for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa.

Written by Stephen

September 11, 2009 at 11:54 am