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Archive for October 2009

Axios! Bishop Savvas of Burundi and Rwanda

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Bishop Savvas Burundi RwandaNews release by the Patriarchate of Alexandria
On Sunday 11th October 2009, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa ordained His Grace Savvas of Burundi and Rwanda in the Holy Patriarchal Church of St Savvas the Sanctified in Alexandria.

His Grace is the first Bishop of the newly established Diocese, which has two countries in its jurisdiction; two of the most suffering on the African continent and on the planet, as His Beatitude emphasized in his address saying that “this fact leads the steps of the Alexandrian Church to support the indigenous population even more and to offer its philanthropy through the establishment of this Diocese”. He went on to praise the service of the new hierarch to this day in the ancient Patriarchate in which he has held various successful positions.

In his reply. His Grace Savvas expressed his gratitude for the great honour bestowed on him by His Beatitude, thanked clergy and lay people who came to his assistance as a priest, and promised to give of himself in the “missionary spiritual field of this much-suffering African area”.

Participating in the Ordination of His Grace were His Eminence Kyrillos of Rhodes, His Eminence Nicholas of Ermopolis and His Eminence Dimitrios of Irinopolis, together with His Grace Gabriel of Mareotis, His Grace Spyridon of Kanopos and His Grace Gennadios of Nilopolis. Also present was His Eminence Emmanuel of Khartoum.

Present also were the Honourable Consul General of Greece in Alexandria, Mr. Ioannis Diakofotakis, the Archon Logothetis of the Patriarchate Mr. Spyridon Kamalakis, the Chairman of Brotherhood of Officers Professor Theodoros Panagopoulos, representatives of Greek societies, as well as a group of pilgrims from his birthplace of the new Bishop, the island of Halki, led by Mayor Eleni Panagi.

His Grace Savvas, Bishop of Burundi and Rwanda (born Vasilios Heimonettos) was born in Rhodes in 1971. He holds a degree from the Patmios Ecclesiastical Academy and from the Department of Social Theology of the Athens Theological Faculty. Apart from Greek he speaks English and Arabic. In 1990 he was tonsured a monk at the Holy Monastery of the Archangel Michael in Tharri, Rhodes by the then Hegumen of the Monastery and present Metropolitan Amphilochios of New Zealand. He was ordained to the Deaconate in 1991 and to the Priesthood in 1993 by the former Metropolitan, His Eminence Apostolos of Rhodes, at the same time being named as Archimandrite. During his eight years there he served as Hierarchal Vicar of Halki and as Parish Priest in parishes of the Holy Metropolis of Rhodes. Following an invitation by the late Patriarch Petros VII he was included amongst the clergy of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and appointed Parish Priest at the Patriarchal Church of St Savvas the Sanctified in Alexandria, taking over duties also at the Press Office and Public Relations of the Patriarchate. In 2001 he served as Custodian in Alexandria and as Financial Supervisor of the Patriarchate. Following the re-operation of the Patriarchal Academy “St Athanasios” of Alexandria, and with the personal care of His Beatitude Theodoros II, the Pope and Patriarch, he was appointed as its Dean as well as becoming a member of the Synod Council on Education. On 6th October 2009, following a proposal by His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa he was unanimously elected by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria as Bishop of the newly-established Diocese of Burundi and Rwanda and was ordained on 11th October 2009 by His Beatitude.

The Diocese
The Holy Diocese of Burundi and Rwanda was established by Patriarchal and Synodal Decree on 6th October 2009. It includes in its jurisdiction the countries of Burundi and Rwanda as well as a great area of the eastern Congo.

Source: Patriarchate of Alexandria–News release and Bishop Savvas’ biography and diocese.


Written by Stephen

October 30, 2009 at 6:27 pm

St. Job of Pochaev

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Commemorated August 28 and October 28

The future saint Job was born Ivan Zhelezo in 1551 to pious parents, Ioann and Agafia, in Pokut’a in Galicia, near the city of Kolomia. As a child he developed high spiritual aspirations, and used the lives of Ss Sava and John of Damascus as well as the “Ladder” of St John Climacus as models of virtuous life.

At the age of ten, Ivan left his parents and asked the abbot of the Transfiguration Ugornits Monastery, in the village of Pidhora near the town of Terebovlya, to accept him so that he could serve his “brothers.” He was tonsured a monk two years later, at the age of 12, and was given the name Job. He lived a life of great piety and strict asceticism. About 1581, when he reached the age of 31, he was offered and accepted the dignity of the priesthood. At about the same time he accepted the urgings of Prince Constantine of Ostrozhsh, who was famed as a defender of Orthodoxy, to become abbot of the Monastery of the Exaltation of the Cross outside the city of Dubno.

For the next twenty years, Hieromonk Job served as the the abbot (hegumen) of this monastery and engaged himself in writing and publishing theological works in an atmosphere of increased tensions. These tensions between the Orthodox and Roman Catholics heightened after the Union of Brest in 1596. His works were collected into The Book of the Venerable Job of Pochaev, Written by His Own Hand. The book contained 80 teachings, conversations, and sermons as well as excerpts of writings from the Holy Fathers. In his writings Fr. Job also defended Orthodoxy against the Protestant heresies presented by missionaries. In his works he presented the Orthodox view of the dogmas of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the Mother of God, baptism, and other matters that particularly were rejected by Protestant missionaries.

In his writings, Fr. Job also critiqued the teachings of the Roman Catholics concerning their doctrinal differences from Orthodox teachings, including the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist. With the Union of Brest, the Orthodox living in Galicia, Volhynia, and other areas of Poland were increasingly subjected to persecutions, deprivation of their rights, and were subject to intense pressures to convert to Catholicism. Fr. Job led the efforts to counteract these pressures using the monastery printing presses and disseminating Orthodox literature. Among the literature was the printing of the first complete Orthodox Bible, sponsored by Prince Constantine in 1581.

Through this public work, Fr. Job faced growing fame that restrained his ascetic life. Finally, he chose to withdraw from the world and became a hermit into the mountain caves of the monastery at Pochaev in Volhynia. Having joined the Pochaev Lavra of the Dormition of the Theotokos in 1604, Fr. Job soon was chosen by the brethren of the monastery as their abbot. He fulfilled his duties as abbot zealously while maintaining a kind and gentle manner with the brethren. He actively participated in the work of the monastery: planting trees and re-working the monastery’s waterworks. He was quiet, used few words, and constantly said the Jesus Prayer in a soft voice. He introduced strict discipline into the monastic life of the monastery, while living the ascetic life himself. He often retreated to his cave that was difficult to enter and so small that sitting, standing, or laying down was difficult. Kneeling, he would pray for long periods of time, wearing knee markings in the rock floor of the cave.

As abbot of the Pochaev Lavra, Job continued taking an active part in the defense of Orthodoxy and the Russian people against the Union of Brest, making extensive use of the famed printing press at the Lavra. He participated in the Synod of Kiev in 1628 that was called to defend the Orthodox Church against Uniatism. Reflecting his asceticism,

Hieromonk Job was tonsured with the Great Schema sometime after 1642. At this tonsure he was given the new monastic name of John.
Hieromonk Job fell asleep in Our Lord on October 25, 1651, having directed Pochaev Lavra for over fifty years. He lived a life of over 100 years. He was glorified on August 8, 1659. On August 28, 1659, his relics were recovered, incorrupt and taken to Trinity Cathedral in the Lavra. On August 28, 1883, his relics were again moved a church in the Lavra that was consecrated to his honor. August 28 is the date for annual pilgrimages by the faithful to Pochaev Lavra to honor and venerate his relics.

Source: OrthodoxWiki

Written by Stephen

October 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Posted in European Saints, Saints

More on Beijing’s Dormition Church

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20091013beijing4A fuller article pulling together the history of the Holy Dormition Church in Beijing, and the story of its recent resurrection, can now be found at the Orthodoxy in China website here.

Written by Stephen

October 27, 2009 at 9:54 pm

St. Cedd of Lastingham

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Commemorated October 26 and January 7

St. Cedd was the eldest of four holy brothers, born into a noble Northumbrian family at the beginning of the 7th century. With his siblings, Cynebil, Caelin & (St.) Chad, he entered the school at Lindisfarne Priory at an early age and learnt the ways of the Irish monks under Bishop Aidan. They were eventually sent to Ireland for further study and all four subsequently became priests.

In AD 653, the mighty armies of King Penda of Mercia expanded their monarch’s influence to the control of Middle Anglia (Leicestershire and parts of Lincoln and Derby), where his son Peada was appointed King. Soon afterward, the young king visited his neighbour, King Oswiu of Northumbria, at Walton (or Atwell or Wattbottle) and, as his new kingdom had already been considerably influenced by East Anglian Christianity, Peada agreed to be baptised in return for the hand of Oswiu’s daughter, Alchflaed. Bishop Finan of Lindisfarne therefore welcomed the King and a number of his nobles into the Christian faith and Oswiu provided him with four priests to instruct his people further. One of these was St. Cedd.

Within a year, Cedd returned home, having helped to convert much of Middle Anglia to Christianity. He travelled to Lindisfarne to confer with Bishop Finan, who promptly sent this impress young missionary out once more to evangelise the people of Essex, who were sorely in need of some spiritual guidance. King Oswiu, having imposed his overlordship there, had persuaded King Sigeberht Sanctus to adopt Christianity, in a general mobilization against Penda of Mercia. Cedd thus turned south again to spread the word of God amongst the East Saxons. He baptised many of the locals and built several churches – possibly Prittlewell and West Mersea amongst them – and is particularly noted for the foundation of monasteries at Ythanchester (Bradwell-on-Sea) and Tilaburg (East Tilbury).

The following year, Cedd made a brief visit to Northumbria once more, where Bishop Finan had no hesitation in ordaining him as Bishop of Essex. Back in his southern province, Cedd pursued the work he had previously begun with more ample authority. He re-instated St. Paul’s in London as the main seat of his diocese. He ordained priests and deacons to assist him in his work and gathered together a large flock of servants of Christ in his two monastic foundations.

Bishop Cedd always remained fond of his homeland, however, and was wont to make regular visits there. On one such occasion in AD 658, Cedd was approached by King Aethelwald of Deira who had been instructed in Christianity and administered the Sacraments by the Bishop’s brother, Caelin. Finding Cedd to be a good and wise man, he pressed upon him to accept a parcel of land at Laestingaeu (Lastingham in Yorkshire) on which to build a Royal monastery and prospective mausoleum. Cedd eventually agreed, but would not lay the foundation stones until the place had first been cleansed through prayer and fasting. This, he undertook himself throughout lent, until his brother, Cynebil, took over, when the Bishop was called to the Royal Court. Cedd was the first Abbot of Lastingham and remained so while still administering to his flock in Essex.

Christianity had not quite been universally accepted in Cedd’s southern province and, by AD 660, there was considerable discontent with the rule of King Sigeberht of Essex. He was murdered by his brothers, Swithelm and Swithfrith, and the former took the throne as a pagan King. St. Cedd was forced to flee north into East Anglia, where he settled at the Court of King Aethelwald at Rendlesham (Suffolk). The East Anglians appear to have held some sort of overlordship in Essex at this time and, within about two years, Aethelwald had persuaded Swithelm that it would be in his interest to become Christian. Cedd baptised him at Rendlesham, with Aethelwald as his godfather, and the two returned to Essex.

It was around this time that, owing to the influence of St. Wilfrid who had been established at Ripon by King Alchfrith of Deira, that a great divide was forming in the Northumbrian Church. All the missionaries of the north had been brought up in Iona or Lindisfarne, and followed the Celtic ritual. Wilfrid, ordained by a French bishop, introduced Roman ways. The split even extended to the Royal household where, each year, Oswiu celebrated the Celtic Easter feast and his Queen, the Roman. To settle this difference, and prevent a rupture, the King convened a religious synod at Whitby in AD 664. St. Cedd attended the synod – probably with his brother, Chad – to act as interpreter and to speak on behalf of his fellow Celtic ecclesiastics, Bishop Colman of Lindisfarne and Abbess Hilda of Whitby. On the opposing side were Abbot Wilfrid of Ripon, former Bishop Agilbert of Wessex, Romanus, the Queen’s chaplain, and James the Deacon who had remained in Swaledale after St. Paulinus had fled Yorkshire. After much debate, it was decided that the Roman usages should be adopted and Cedd, along with many others, reluctantly renounced the customs of Lindisfarne and returned to his diocese to spread the new Roman ways amongst the people of Essex.

The same year, Cedd visited his Abbey at Lastingham while a great plague was, unfortunately, raging through the area. Both he and his brother, Cynebil, fell sick and, after placing Lastingham in the charge of their youngest brother, Chad, they died. Cedd was first buried in the open air and his funeral was attended by some thirty monks from Bradwell who, sadly, also contracted the plague and died. Eventually, a little stone church was built at the Lastingham, in honour the Virgin Mary, and Cedd’s body was interred there, to the right of the altar. The latter remains intact in the Norman crypt that was later built on the site, though St. Cedd’s bones were removed around the same time to the cathedral founded by his brother, Chad, at Lichfield.

Hat Tip: Logismoi

Written by Stephen

October 26, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Posted in European Saints, Saints

New Mongolian Orthodox Newspaper

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20080915mongolia1With the support of the “Russian World” Fund, “Trinity”, a newspaper published by Holy Trinity Parish in Ulan Bator (Mongolia), will come out monthly in Russian and Mongolian.

As reported to DECR Communication Service by Fr. Aleksey Trubach, priest-in-charge of the temple, sections of the printed edition will include: parish news, general Church news, news from parishes abroad. Another section of the newspaper is dedicated to issues of faith and salvation; and, a church calendar with a schedule of the following month’s divine services.

The Russian version of the newspaper “Trinity” is distributed to Holy Trinity Parish and the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ulan Bator, to Russo-Mongolian enterprises and educational institutions. The Mongolian version of the publication may be obtained at the parish, as well as at Russo-Mongolian enterprises and, moreover, at news stands.

Source: Orthodoxy in China
Image: The newly built and consecrated church in Mongolia.

Written by Stephen

October 25, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Mongolia, Publications

Moscow’s Punk Priest

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abc_punk_preist_091016_mnOn a Tuesday night, a dark rec hall on the outskirts of Moscow is hosting its weekly “Rock Festival.” It’s really nothing more than an open-mic night for local hard rock bands to showcase their talents, something some of the acts could use a touch more of.

Teens and 20-somethings mill about, a handful in front of the stage, the rest scattered throughout the low-ceilinged room sitting at tables or standing in groups. Skinny jeans and studded belts are de rigueur.

At 8:30 p.m., the door to the hall opens and a man who decidedly doesn’t belong here walks in. Bald and bearded, he walks with the gait of a large man and the confidence of someone familiar with his surroundings.

A cursory glance immediately identifies the black-cassocked man with an oversized gold cross around his neck as a Russian Orthodox priest.

The Rev. Sergei Rybko makes his way up through the middle of the room and plops himself down in a chair 20 feet to the right of the stage. For someone who is so clearly out of his element, he doesn’t get many looks from the hipsters and headbangers. They’ve seen him here before.

As the alternative band OffiGella finishes its set, Rybko, 49, gets up and heads to the stage. He waits in the wings while his long-haired sidekick, Yuri, introduces him as a former hippy and regular rock festival attendee. The audience of 30 in front of the stage cheers when Rybko takes the microphone and flashes the peace sign.

He keeps his talk short, keenly aware that the crowd won’t put up with a long religious discourse. They’ve come together this night because in a way, he tells them, they’re a club of lonely-hearts, like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Together here, their hearts are united but, afterward, they will be all alone.

“You don’t have to be alone,” he says. “If you reach out to God, you will never be alone.”

Another peace sign, a slight bow, and the crowd cheers as Rybko leaves the stage. A heavy metal band starts up, with a “singer” whose roar could shatter windows.

The Rev. Sergei Rybko: Once a Rocker, Now a Priest

A young man makes a beeline for Rybko as he comes off the stage. “I wanted to say a big thank you for coming and for his support,” the young man says afterward. “I had some questions I didn’t know who to talk to about, so I asked him and he explained everything to me.”

Rybko dallies for a few moments, watching a mosh pit form before making his exit. He leaves before Gella, the lead singer of “OffiGella,” has a chance to talk to him. A pretty red-haired girl, she is pregnant and her bandmates had been urging her to ask him if it’s OK to keep singing at these shows.

His mission comes by way of the church, asked by the patriarch (the head of the Orthodox Church) to reach out to young people in the rock subculture.

Despite the charge from on high, however, Rybko is realistic about how successful he can be. “At least they didn’t throw anything,” he says when asked for a self-assessment. “My job is to sow, it is up to God to cultivate.

“If what I say changes someone, if it makes someone purer, closer to God, then that’s a successful evening,” he says.

It’s no coincidence that the patriarch picked him for the job. Rybko has some street cred with this group because they know that before he walked around in a cassock, he rebelled against Soviet communism in the 1970s by starting a band and leading a small group of anarchists before becoming a wandering hippy. “I used to be a rocker and I will always be one,” he says. “For the average person behind the Iron Curtain, it represented the only truth that you could listen to.”

His first job in the church was at 19 as a bell ringer where he would mix traditional ringing with Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin songs. The old ladies in the congregation loved it, he says. Working at the church wore off on him and, at 28, he was ordained as a priest.

Two days after Rybko’s appearance at the hall, he’s standing in front of an entirely different audience at the morning service at the St. Sergius of Radonezh church in the Moscow suburbs.

It’s a full house, the congregation is older, mostly women with scarves covering their heads. They follow Rybko in prayer and take communion before the service culminates with the traditional walking of the icon around the church.

Rybko Has His Own Rock Club

“These people have already discovered Christ and the Orthodox world is the essence of their lives,” he says near the gates of the church. “In the club, I talk to people who are far away from God, from Christ, from the Orthodox religion.

“If I open the Bible [in the clubs] and start to talk like a priest, they will all run away. So I have to use their language but make sure they understand that a priest is speaking to them and that Christianity will solve their problems,” he adds.

When the worshippers leave, he heads around the back of the church to a small building where he has set up what he calls his own rock club.

It’s the kind of small, dark room with a funky smell that any rebellious 16-year-old would have in his parents’ garage. Instruments and amplifiers lie about, multi-colored lights flash and graffiti is spray-painted on the walls.

But, then, you spot the religious art and large cross on the ceiling.

“It’s very unusual,” says Dmitry Rock (his stage name), a long-haired guitarist with two piercings in his lower lip. “When I first came here, I couldn’t believe a priest set this up. Then we got used to it.”

Musicians are free to come here and rehearse; better they hang out here than on the streets, Rybko says.

Rock is not religious and Rybko’s overt goal is not to make people like loyal churchgoers. But, as Rybko did when he was younger, they’ve now started helping out around the church.

Despite his colorful past, Rybko admits that, these days, he feels more comfortable preaching in church than hanging out at concerts and clubs.

“Thirty years ago [that] would have been my home,” he says. “[Now] I feel more at home in church, that is closer to me. But it is my duty to go [to the clubs]. If I don’t, who will?”

Source: ABC News
There is also a video newscast at ABC News about Fr. Sergei.
Hat Tip: Fr. James Coles at Scholé

Written by Stephen

October 23, 2009 at 11:45 am

Posted in Missionaries, Russia

Apostle and Evangelist Luke

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LUKE_PAINTINGCommemorated October 18

The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, was a native of Syrian Antioch, a companion of the holy Apostle Paul (Phil.1:24, 2 Tim. 4:10-11), and a physician enlightened in the Greek medical arts. Hearing about Christ, Luke arrived in Palestine and fervently accepted the preaching of salvation from the Lord Himself. As one of the Seventy Apostles, St Luke was sent by the Lord with the others to preach the Kingdom of Heaven during the Savior’s earthly life (Luke 10:1-3). After the Resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Sts Luke and Cleopas on the road to Emmaus.

Luke accompanied St Paul on his second missionary journey, and from that time they were inseparable. When Paul’s coworkers had forsaken him, only Luke remained to assist him in his ministry (2 Tim. 4:10-11). After the martyric death of the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul, St Luke left Rome to preach in Achaia, Libya, Egypt and the Thebaid. He ended his life by suffering martyrdom in the city of Thebes.

Tradition credits St Luke with painting the first icons of the Mother of God. “Let the grace of Him Who was born of Me and My mercy be with these Icons,” said the All-Pure Virgin after seeing the icons. St Luke also painted icons of the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul. St Luke’s Gospel was written in the years 62-63 at Rome, under the guidance of the Apostle Paul. In the preliminary verses (1:1-3), St Luke precisely sets forth the purpose of his work. He proposes to record, in chronological order, everything known by Christians about Jesus Christ and His teachings. By doing this, he provided a firmer historical basis for Christian teaching (1:4). He carefully investigated the facts, and made generous use of the oral tradition of the Church and of what the All-Pure Virgin Mary Herself had told him (2:19, 51).

In St Luke’s Gospel, the message of the salvation made possible by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the preaching of the Gospel, are of primary importance.

St Luke also wrote the Acts of the Holy Apostles at Rome around 62-63 A.D. The Book of Acts, which is a continuation of the four Gospels, speaks about the works and the fruits of the holy Apostles after the Ascension of the Savior. At the center of the narrative is the Council of the holy Apostles at Jerusalem in the year 51, a Church event of great significance, which resulted in the separation of Christianity from Judaism and its independent dissemination into the world (Acts 15:6-29). The theological focus of the Book of Acts is the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who will guide the Church “into all truth” John 16:13) until the Second Coming of Christ.

The holy relics of St Luke were taken from Constantinople and brought to Padua, Italy at some point in history. Perhaps this was during the infamous Crusade of 1204. In 1992, Metropolitan Hieronymus (Jerome) of Thebes requested the Roman Catholic bishop in Thebes to obtain a portion of St Luke’s relics for the saint’s empty sepulchre in the Orthodox cathedral in Thebes.

The Roman Catholic bishop Antonio Mattiazzo of Padua, noting that Orthodox pilgrims came to Padua to venerate the relics while many Catholics did not even know that the relics were there, appointed a committee to investigate the relics in Padua, and the skull of St Luke in the Catholic Cathedral of St Vico in Prague.

The skeleton was determined to be that of an elderly man of strong build. In 2001, a tooth found in the coffin was judged to be consistent with the DNA of Syrians living near the area of Antioch dating from 72-416 A.D. The skull in Prague perfectly fit the neck bone of the skelton. The tooth found in the coffin in Padua was also found to fit the jawbone of the skull.

Bishop Mattiazzo sent a rib from the relics to Metropolitan Hieronymus to be venerated in St Luke’s original tomb in the Orthodox cathedral at Thebes.

Source: OCA

Written by Stephen

October 18, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Posted in Saints