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Orthodox Christian Missions

Archive for November 2009

St. Andrew the First Called

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Commemorated November 30

George Alexandrou, a Greek journalist and writer, has done some remarkable research about St. Andrew, which he shared with Road to Emmaus in 2004. The following piece is an excerpt from that article, entitled “The Astonishing Missionary Journeys of the Apostle Andrew.”

RTE: Tell us now about St. Andrew himself. What have you learned about him?

GEORGE: If you compare the traditions from Kurdistan, Valaamo, Ethiopia and Persia, you see the same man. This is very important. You find exactly the same details about his character. I read these different traditions and say, “Yes, this is him. This is St. Andrew.” After reading many, many texts from all different parts of the world, I have a feeling for what is really him. I feel now if a text is living authority, passed down from people who knew him or not. He was not a common man, he was strange.

RTE: Do you mean strange or unique?

GEORGE: Unique, but strange as well. He had a habit of putting up big stone or iron crosses everywhere. He carried a huge staff with a cross. He was modest, he didn’t make a lot of disciples – just a few, in a few small circles.  He didn’t preach to huge crowds like Peter or Paul. St. Andrew gathered small companies, as would a geronda or a staretz.

Also, he had a sense of humor. For example, some of the sources say that when he first saw the saunas of the Slavs in what is now Novgorod he wrote letters to friends saying, “These Slavs are such strange people; they torture themselves with birch branches.” He was laughing about it. You cannot imagine him as a master of strictness. He was a humorous man, very humble, very easy. As a Mediterranean person he was surprised by these strange traditions.  Of course, he was also a man who had seen many things. He traveled with Lapp reindeer herders, with Huns, spoke to Greek philosophers, Russian merchants, knew Chinese bureaucrats, visited primitive tribes in northern Pakistan and Berbers in the deserts of the Sahara.

You can understand from this how much he knew and how great his store of practical wisdom must have been. Not only grace-filled wisdom from the Lord, but his worldly wisdom. Because he was humble, he could speak to all these people. He was not an invader, he was not an explorer, he lived as one of them. He fished with them, ate with them, farmed with them, traveled with them – by any means they had – on foot, by canoes or boats, horses, camels, reindeer, elephants. You can imagine what he must have seen.  The important thing is that because he was humble he shared their experience. If you aren’t humble, you cannot share another person’s experience, you can only report about them, but he was their equal and he gained their wisdom, and they gained his.

Apostle Andrew was so modest that he didn’t step forward with the triad of Peter, James, and John, although he was the “first-called.” The firstcalled, but he never went first. He only went first when he had something to ask from God. We have three examples of this from the gospels. One was on Holy Thursday when the Lord went to the temple, “there were certain Greeks among them that came to worship at the feast.” These Greeks came to Philip and asked if they could see Jesus. Philip didn’t know what to do with them so he told Andrew, and Andrew took him and went to the Lord.  He was not afraid to face God, and he knew Christ was God, he was the first to understand and follow him. He was also the first missionary, to his brother Peter. The second time is the miracle of the five loaves and the two fish. Andrew was the one who went to the Lord and said, “We have this problem. Aren’t you going to do something?” He was never in the forefront for himself, but when it was for other people, he demanded help from God. The third time was in the Gospel of St. Mark, where, with Peter, James, and John, Andrew asked the Lord about the signs of the end times.

In these old traditions from the second and third century, Andrew was so humble that he thought everyone he met was Christ Himself – the captain of the boat, the peddler on the dock. The apostles didn’t have the arrogance of the Greco-Romans, or even of the Jews. They were very humble people and could meet both barbarians and Greek philosophers. We know that the Apostle Andrew was not against Greek philosophy. He liked to speak to philosophers and he even had as a disciple the Greek mathematician and philosopher Stratocles, the first bishop of Patras. Stratocles was probably a former Pythagorean, because the Pythagoreans had connected mathematics and philosophy with a unique mysticism. This is the secret, I think, to understanding St. Andrew’s soul, that he was very modest and that he saw everyone as an icon of Christ.

The rest of the article can be found here.

The icon is from here.

Hat Tip to Orrologion for first posting this article.

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Written by Stephen

November 30, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Posted in Saints

Interview: Metropolitan Nektarios on Missions in Asia

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Without making light of Metropolitan Nektarios’ words, I’d like to add as a preface that the interview is only about the work happening in the Metropolis of Hong Kong and South-East Asia, currently headed by Metropolitan Nektarios, which for now covers a geographical area much larger than just South-East Asia. This interview does not touch on the work of the Orthodox Church of Japan, the Metropolis of Korea, nor on the work of the Moscow Patriarchate, ROCOR, or the Antiochians, who are also serving in Asia to various extents.

1. What do missions mean for the Orthodox Church?

Our Lord after his Resurrection gave to his disciples the command, “As you go, teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep everything which I commanded you.”

This command of the Master constituted for the Church a continuous obligation. The Church must give its own witness here in this world and it should proclaim with words and deeds the saving message of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The goal of the Church is that it should bring the world into the Church and make Christians of all mankind. The Church, and I am speaking for the Orthodox Church, never made use of worldly methods in the application of its teachings and in the formation of converts. We do not try to use force or psychologically compulsory methods to spread the Gospel of Christ.

Certainly it is true, unfortunately, that the Orthodox Church does not have an organized mission. Every local Orthodox Chruch is making an effort with their own criteria and with their own power to do a missions. If we should take into account the contemptable phenomenon of paralleled Orthodox jurisdictions which is observed in recent decades in America, Europe, Australia and recently Southeast Asia, then we are able to understand why non-christians see us as something similar to Protestants, divided into many groups, who competitively try to prove their missionary effort by their “successes”. The things of which I speak are not an exaggeration and do not misunderstand my words. In the area of missions it is necessary to see things from the perspective of others. For they who are not Christians naturally have a different view and opinion about Christianity from us, who have had the blessing of being born and raised in a christian environment and a christian land. If we do not do this, then we will not be able to give others understanding of our missionary message and naturally our missionary labour, despite the hard work, will turn out fruitless.

2. How were you lead into missions, and at such a far away place?

It is necessary to point out that when we talk about missions we do not understand it as being sent to those who are non-christian only, but also to those who have already been baptized as Christians. God lead the first young steps of my life to a monastic vocation and more generally to the service of the Gospel. When you live daily at a monastery the ascetic tradition of the Church and you live the Christian way of life found in the daily Services and in the contemplation of the Holy Scriptures and Holy Fathers, then you desire to preach the same realities of life to the armchair Christians and those Christians who are indifferent. The idea of what is known as foreign missions never had crossed my mind. Then I was seeing how many of our brothers and sisters in Greece who have been baptized Orthodox are completely uncatechized. And even today this is a reality. We boast that Greece is a Christian nation and that the Christians are 95% Orthodox. We rejoice during Holy Week when the sacred churches are full. Forgive me, but the rest of the year where are all those people? Are we not living in an imaginary world of our fantasies? Look around you and search to see how many there are who live the Christian life? Our Greece needs much work in the area of Orthodox catechism for adults. Also they need workers devoted with zeal. In Southeast Asia many times indigenous Christians ask me: “Why don’t the Greeks not come every Sunday to Church”? They consider Greece a model and they are sorry when they see Greek Christians that are completely uncatechized.

That I am found far away from Greece, I attribute it to the will of God. I did not flee from it. God called me and established me at this new bastion. Humbly I received this new calling and so I am found in far away Hong Kong.

3. How difficult is the work of a missionary in Asia?

Orthodoxy in Asia is completely unknown. The people here know the Christian traditions which the Roman Catholics and Protestants carried here. These christian confessions also have organized missions. Of course these older missionary attempts combined their actions with the political colonization of the Great Powers and this combinination made the indigenous peoples to become very cautious with everything that is christian. The Orthodox missionary is coming to work within lands which have a different outlook and a different culture from which he is accustomed. There are no infrastructures to possibly support the work and there is certainly not the economic support. I say this because some who have created a dream-like image of missionaries. But the reality is different. How will a missionary in Southeast Asia live? Does they not have necessities like shelter and food? How will they conduct their mission? A mission also has practical necessities. How will they build a church? Who will pay for the translations, the publication of tracts and books, and thousands of other things?

Also some think that the missionary is able to live like a beggar. Let them visit Hong Kong, Singapore or Taiwan and after they can review their same theories concerning missionaries.

Besides these practical things there are also other difficulties for anyone who desires to engage in missionary work in Asia. There is the issue of language, the different mentality and culture, and the reality of religious fanaticism. And certainly the mistrust which stems from what these people suffered from the colonialists.

I think that the presence of the Orthodox Church in Southeast Asia despite these weaknesses is a great miracle.

4. How do you begin a mission and in what sectors do you move around in?

The same phenomena they saw in the initial apostolic years we are encountering today. I am referring to the work of the mission. In a certain regions of Southeast Asia, Orthodoxy reached people by those who went there to work. In another region some Orthodox clergyman determined to initiate a missionary effort. There is also the matter of those locals who learned of Orthodoxy via the Internet who then inquired for Orthodox clergy to visit them and catechize them.

At this point in time, by God’s grace, we have in the Holy Metropolis of Hong Kong and the Far East 47 operating Orthodox communities of which 25 have a church building. The communities are worshiping in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan and Malaysia. In Thailand, Shanghai, Peking and others there are not regular places of worship but we are making an effort to serve the Orthodox there on the Great Feasts.

In the Metropolis there serves 32 clergy: 4 Greek, 1 British, 11 Indian, 9 Indonesian, 6 Philippino and 1 Pakastani. In the are of Masbate in the Philippines there is a female holy monastery with four nuns, and we plan to establish a new female holy monastery in Medan of Indonesia.

The Orthodox believers in Southeast Asia are about 17,000 and we are not including the Catechumens who daily seek us in order to become Orthodox, and those who are Orthodox Christians yet conceal their religious faith because of their local [religious and/or political] situations.

The Metropolis of Hong Kong and the Far East is coordinating, overseeing and supporting the following philanthropic programs which serves the regions in its jurisdiction:

– 8 medical clinics in West Bengal in India (each clinic is staffed by a doctor, a nurse, a janitor and allotted supplies so as to have a pharmacy).

– 2 medical clinics in Indonesia (staffed by two doctors and four nurses).

– 1 dentist in Calcutta, India.

– 1 dentist in Indonesia.

– 1 orphanage in Calcutta with 180 girls.

– 1 orphanage for destitute children in Medan, Indonesia.

– 1 orphanage for destitute children in Singaraja, Indonesia.

– 4 nursery schools (India, Indonesia, and the Philippines).

– 10 elementary schools (India and Indonesia).

– 1 high school (Indonesia).

– 2 technical schools (India, Indonesia).
– 1 advanced polytechnic academy with two departments in computer science and a business administration (Indonesia).
– 1 theological seminary is found in Medan, Indonesia (the Greek language is also taught).

Also the Sacred Metropolis is developing programs:

– economic aid for the destitute.

– weekly distribution of food, clothing and all manner of personal hygene products and medicine.

– distribution of all manner of scholastic books to destitute children (for in the region of Southeast Asia there is no free education. The students even in public schools are indebted to withhold a small amount for tuition fees and the purchase of books).

– visitations to hospitals and prisons.

– daily meals

– the manufacture of small homes for homeless families.

– psychological and physical support for abused women and stray children.

– the protection of refugees.

– humanitarian aide to regions where they are hurt by natural disasters.

– scholarships for destitute students.

– we provide educational support for illiterates (mainly in Pakistan).

– drilling for water in underdeveloped areas in order to provide them with drinkable water.

The Metropolis is responsible for the preservation, the equipment and the service of the institutions and programs as well as the wages for staff. The annual costs of all of the missionary and philanthropic programs comes near to 750,00 euros. So the Metropolis needs roughly 70,000 euros each month.

5. What difficulties and obstacles by any chance are you confronting?

The difficulties are many. First of all we need trained clergy who will decide to dedicate themselves to give some time to missions. The indigenous priests need guidance and education. Also another big problem is finding financial means. The Orthodox parishes have either few numbers or are comprised of mainly poor people, and they consequently are not able to cover the costs of building churches or running missions and philanthropic programs. At this moment all the revenues of the Holy Metropolis are derived from gifts of friends of the mission. Do you understand, therefore, the stress and also the anguish each month when we make an effort to obtain the wages for the priests and the personnel of the philanthropic institutions, as well as the essential money for its preservation of the missionary work. The financial problem has an impact also on other activities. For example, on many occasions we are cancelling our missionary visits to scale back because we do not have the money to pay for airfare, or we halt the philanthropic programs by reason of lack of financial support. At the office of the Metropolis of Hong Kong we do not have necessary personnel because we are not able to pay wages, so we pay a bookkeeper from a large accounting firm to come two days a week. The rest that needs to be done we try to cover it ourselves, myself and Fr Constantinos, Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis.

In these places it is not easy to find chanters. And certainly it is not easy to train someone. It will be necessary to send them to either America or to Australia where the English language is mainly used to perform the Services. But the cost is prohibitive for the Metropolis. I speak about these difficulties, but there is also the shortage of clergy, for most of the Sundays or Feasts I serve as the only priest.

Other significant difficulties are the religious fanaticism and antagonistic behavior of the various appointed regimes. Imagine that in various power countries if they see religious objects or vestments in your suitcase then they stop you, in which case they have the choice to either confiscate them or prohibit your entrance into the country. Certainly in these countries you are not able to disclose the that you are a clergyman because they simply they do not grant you licence for entry.

We also confront difficulties due to the different languages and culture. Imagine that the Holy Metropolis is called to missions in the 23 countries of Southeast Asia. And some of these countries like China and India have very ancient cultures and very ancient religious traditions. All these things mean that it is necessary to find the right manner to reach all the peoples and certainly to translate the liturgy and catechetical texts into the countless dialects.

6. The people that you have received to serve, what are their cultures, religion and traditions?

As I have mentioned the Holy Metropolis of Hong Kong and the Far East has brought into action missions in 23 countries, from Pakistan to the Philippines. This means many different nationalities, cultures and religions. In many of these countries the dominant religions are Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Islam. Christians of all confessions are a minority. And certainly Orthodoxy is unknown everywhere.

In countries such as China the greater percentage of people declare themselves without a religion. And it is a fact that for many of them money is their god.

I think however it is significant that they keep alive ancient traditions, customs and habits which resemble ours, such as the respect for those who have fallen asleep.

7. What is your vision for the Orthodox mission to Asia in the 21st century?

The Orthodox Church has much to offer Southeast Asia. When the indigenous people become acquainted with Orthodoxy they feel a familiarity. They are aware that they have found the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But it is still necessary to know much more. The Orthodox mission is still in its infancy and unfortunately unorganized. I emphasize this, for it is from these wounds where it is necessary that the Orthodox Church in its entirety become healed. The Ecumenical Patriarch is making an effort, attempting with much energy to support the mission in different parts of the planet. It is a pity other Orthodox Churches think along ethnic lines and so the Orthodox do not appear united in the sphere of the mission.

So if we desire a living mission then it is necessary to inspire and to prepare new clergy so they will offer their lives to this very intention and naturally to support financially these efforts which are taking place.

I will mention one example. The Roman Catholics in Hong Kong have 180 priests! One hundred of them are missionaries, that is, they are from other countries and came to Hong Kong where they will work for a two year period. What are we Orthodox doing?

8. What are some ways to help the mission?

There are many ways to help. First and foremost is prayer. To pray for those engaged in missionary work. Prayer is a necessity for the whole Church.

Clergy are able to help by offering themselves to serve for three months as missionaries. Especially the unmarried clergy in Greece, are they not able to come for three months, not more, to visit some mission and offer their valuable help?

We need people to do translations into English, as there is shortage of suitable helpers.

Also we have need more practical items such as candles, charcoal, incense, water and wine for the Eucharist.

Finally, a significant way for anyone to help the mission is with a financial offering. Hearing something so prosaic may cause some to be scandalized, but it is necessary to be realistic. The mission has need of financial support.

I am heartily thank you for the zeal which made possible this opportunity to speak about the mission to Southeast Asia. May God bless you. May you remember us in your prayers.

Please send your financial support to the following address:

Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia
#704 Universal Trade Center
3 Arbuthnot Road
Central, Hong Kong
Phone: + (852) 2573-8328
Fax: + (852) 2573-8379
E-mail: office@antispam.omhksea.org

For the official website of the Metropolis of Hong Kong and South East Asia, see here.

For this interview in Greek, see here.

Source: Mystagogy

Written by Stephen

November 28, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Asia, Interview

St. Virgilius of Salzburg

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One of the more obscure Saints, I believe, listed for today, 27 November on the Church’s calendar, is St Vergilius (Virgil) of Salzburg (d. 784). Like St Columbanus, whom we commemorated last week, St Vergilius represents an interesting phenomenon: the Irish Saint travelling to the European continent and becoming influential there. According to Thomas Owen Clancy and Gilbert Márkus, St Vergilius was probably from the Monastery of Iona, founded by St Columba (Iona: The Earliest Poetry of a Celtic Monastery [Edinburgh: Edinburgh U, 1995], p. 17). He went to the continent, and after two years in the court of Pepin, became abbot of the St Peter’s Monastery in what is now Salzburg, Austria. St Vergilius was involved in a couple of controversies with St Boniface, but was vindicated by Pope St Zachary of Rome (a Greek Calabrian, restorer of Monte Cassino, and the translator of St Gregory the Great’s Dialogues into Greek, he is an interesting figure in his own right). He was made bishop of the city of Salzburg, and consecrated its first cathedral, there transferring the relics of St Rupert. St Vergilius also sent missionaries to the Slavs, one hundred years before the Cyrillo-Methodian mission. He fell asleep in the Lord on 27 Novemer 784.

St Vergilius’s see, Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart and former home of the Von Trapp family. It is a beautiful city with a wonderfully preserved Baroque Old Town, and there one can still see the now Benedictine (and very Baroque!) Archabbey of St Peter, where Mozart’s ‘Mass in C Minor’ (the ‘Große Messe’) was first performed. Unfortunately, after St Vergilius’s repose, the duchy of which the city was a part was conquered by Charlemagne, and the bishops of Salzburg, who had once been ascetic monks and abbots of the monastery of St Peter, eventually became secular administators (see the St Pachomios Library article). Their palace on the hill (see the above photo) still dominates the entire city. Sadly, N. Redington points out that it was the successors of St Vergilius who became the main opponents and persecutors of Ss Cyril and Methodius just one century later. But, he reassures us, ‘although Austria and Bavaria have not been Orthodox for a thousand years, the saints of the Orthodox period still live in Christ, interceding for their countries and all humanity.’

Source: Aaron Taylor of Logismoi
A little more information can be found here, at St. Pachomius Library.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find an icon of St. Virgilius.

Written by Stephen

November 27, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Posted in European Saints, Saints

Memory Eternal

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Fr. Daniil Sysoev was shot and killed in his church in Moscow on November 20, 2009. May his memory be eternal. Below is a brief autobiography and interview on missionary work, followed by a few links about his death.

“You Wish to See Many Miracles–You Should Become a Missionary or a Martyr”: Fr. Daniel’s Autobiography and the Interview with Him on the Occasion of the Opening of the Missionary Centre

Autobiography of Fr. Daniel Sysoev
“I, Priest Daniel Alekseevich Sysoev, was born on January 12, 1974, in Moscow to a family of teachers and artists. My father, Priest Aleksei Nikolaevich Sysoev, is now rector of the Church of St. John the Theologian at the ‘Iasenevo’ Orthodox Classical Orthodox Gymnasium, and is also a clergyman of the Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Iasenevo. My mother, Anna Midkhatovna Amirova, teaches catechism at the same school.

“I was found worthy of Baptism on October 31, 1977, in the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity at Vorobyovy Hills by Priest Eugene. From that time we were regular parishioners of the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Kuznetsky Sloboda. Then we attended the small cathedral of the Donskoi Monastery, the Church of the Deposition of the Robe in Shabolovka. When my father was sacristan of the Church of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist I helped him in the altar and sang in the choir. In the summer of 1988, I took part in the restoration work at the renewed Optina monastery. When the restoration of the Church of All Saints at the former Novoalekseev Monastery began, I sang in a choir there and its rector, Fr. Artemii Vladimirov, recommended that I enter the Moscow Theological Seminary.

“After completing secondary school in 1991, I entered the Moscow Theological Seminary. While studying there I had the obedience of choir singer and as leader of a mixed choir. On December 19, 1994, His Eminence, Bishop Rostislav of Magadan and Chukotka, ordained me a reader.

“On January 22, 1995, I married Iulia Mikhailovna Brykina. The Mystery of Marriage was celebrated in the Church of St. John the Theologian by Priest Dionisii Pozdniaev. In the same year my first daughter, Justina, was born.

“On May 13, 1995, His Eminence, Bishop Evgenii of Verey, ordained me a deacon. I graduated from the Moscow Theological Seminary at the top of the class on June 14, 1995, and enrolled in the correspondence course of the Moscow Theological Academy, from which I graduated in 2000. On June 9, 2000, the council of the Moscow Theological Academy Council approved my candidate’s thesis, ‘Anthropology and Analysis of the Seventh Day Adventists and the Watchtower Society.’

“After graduation from the Seminary, by Patriarchal decree, I was appointed a clergyman in the church of the Dormition of the All-Holy Mother of God in Gonchary, the Bulgarian Metochian.

“From September 1995, I taught the Law of God in the senior classes of the ’Iasenevo’ Orthodox Classical Gymnasium. On May 24, 2000, I was awarded a Letter of Commendation for my teaching by the Department of Religious Education and Catechesis.

“From August 1996, with the blessing of His All-Holiness, the Patriarch, I held missionary Biblical conversations in the Kriutitsy Patriarchal Metochian with people who had suffered from the influence of sects and occultists. I began my work at the Rehabilitation Center of St. John of Kronstadt, directed by Hieromonk Anatoly (Berestov), after its creation.

“In 1999, with the blessing of His All-Holiness, the Patriarch, my book The Chronicle of the Beginning, dedicated to the defense of the patristic doctrine of creation, was published by the Publishing House of Sretensky Monastery.

“In 2000 I graduated from the Moscow Theological Academy as a Candidate of Theology. In 2001 I was ordained a priest. In the same year my second daughter, Dorofeya, was born.

“I served in the Church of Saint Apostles Peter and Paul in Yasenevo in Moscow. I was secretary of the ’Shestodnev’ missionary-educational center and a member of the rehabilitation centre for victims of totalitarian cults and pseudo-religious movements in the name of Saint John of Kronstadt. I am the author of the book The Chronicle of the Beginning (Moscow, 1999), editor of the anthology Hexaemeron Against Evolution (Moscow, 2000) and the anthology Divine Revelation and Contemporary Science. I have published over a dozen articles on creation and anti-sectarian issues.”

For his active missionary activity and polemics with Muslims he was often criticized by Muslims and received threats.

On November 19, 2009, he was mortally wounded in the yard of the Church of the Prophet Daniel (according to other reports, in the church itself) by two bullets fired from a pistol. The killers, who were wearing masks, escaped.

Fr. Daniel leaves behind a wife and three children.

Father Daniel Sysoev is the rector of the Apostle Thomas Church and the initiator of a growing community in honor of the Prophet Daniel. We met on the occasion of the opening of the missionary center in honor of Saint Thomas the Apostle. Olga Kurova talked to Fr. Daniel.

Fr. Daniel the occasion for our meeting is the opening of a missionary center. It goes without saying that there was a great deal of preliminary work. Please tell us how it all began.

If we are to recall from the very beginning, it would be 1993, when I was a missionary right on the streets. And from August of 1996 I have entirely officially, with the blessing of His All-Holiness, the Patriarch, led missionary Biblical conversations at the Krutitsy Patriarchal Metochion. These conversations were first intended for converting Protestants. Later more and more occultists and victims of different “sorcerers” appeared. And at last I turned to missionary work among Moslems. So, our center is open to victims of paranormalists and to young people who want to learn the basics of Christianity, as well as for those of other faiths.

What are your goals?

Not so long ago we consecrated a temporary church in honor of Saint Thomas the Apostle. A large missionary church in honor of the Prophet Daniel with a chapel to Saint Thomas the Apostle is being built now. This chapel is already functioning, for the moment as its own church. One of our goals is the conversion of non-Christians, mostly non-Russians. The Kantemirovskiy district of Moscow, where the church is located, is a district of different expatriate communities. Moreover, it is a place where different sects are very active. Near the church there is a large Mormon center, and in the area there are Baptists, Adventists, and occultists. But there were no Orthodox until quite recently.

We opened a catechetical school about the basics of Christianity. Every five weeks we conduct a course of five catechetical discourses for those who want to be baptized or just to know more about Christianity. A community of Orthodox Tartars is already functioning in the church and the information agency of Saint Akhmet is starting its activity.

Very soon we are planning to have an open house: we will paste up notices around the district saying that all those who wish may come to the church and ask the priest any question. Later we would like to have such days every three months.

We also work with youth. Beside our temple there is the Moscow Engineering and Physical University. Curiously enough, we were the first ones to hold a moleben (supplicatory service) before students’ exams. Molebens before the beginning of the academic year have already become traditional in all Orthodox churches, although exams are a more strained period for students. Somehow students do not go beyond lighting candles. Anyway, we hold molebens before the exams, after the Liturgy, and invite all the students.

How can you alone cope with all you have to accomplish? Do you have any assistants, some sort of initiative group?

Yes, we have an initiative group; it was already formed at the Krutitsy Patriarchal Metochion. In addition there is the Tartar Orthodox community, which has existed since 2003. And certainly many different Christians of different nations take part in mission. After the feast of the Theophany of Our Lord we hope to open missionary courses. Perhaps, later we will create a missionary institute based on it, and it will prepare preachers of the Gospel. There will be all kinds of preaching: on the streets, in universities. We want to deprive sectarians of their weapon.

And how do you work with expatriate communities? Let us take the Azerbaijani, who live near Kantemirovskaya, for example. How can you enter their community? What can you talk to them about?

I can not say anything about the Azerbaijani community, because I have not yet formed any contacts with them. But I can say a lot about the Tartar expatriate community. I have appeared time and again in a Tartar cultural center, and have gone to Kazan. Tartars are the third largest national group in Moscow. And our work is quite successful: many Tartars, especially young ones, are becoming Christians. Since 2003 I have performed molebens in the Tartar language for the conversion of those astray.

Our task is to break down the barriers that can be found in the cultures of different nationalities that prevent them from accepting Orthodoxy. The news that Orthodoxy is the universal faith, to which all nations are called, is still considered scandalous.

How should a true young missionary behave talking to someone of the same age?

A missionary should be the one to start the conversation about God, or else he is no missionary at all. But at the same time, he must soberly evaluate his own knowledge and skills. He should know the answers to the basic questions his counterparts usually ask about Christianity. He should remember that attack is the best form of defense. He should never hesitate to say that you are right and they are wrong. It is not necessary to bow and scrape before each listener. But at the same time, he must not injure somebody’s pride in order to prove his case. Christ died for everyone. One should remember that one should respect a person, not his delusions. There should be rejection of falsity, but love for man.

It is difficult for a teenager to go against the collective, to become a black sheep, but it is essential to have that boldness. Previously, in the time of my youth, I considered it prestigious to differ from others. I believe we should restore that tradition. A black sheep is a noble animal. A real Christian should remember this. And if he does not have the strength, he should ask God for help. A young missionary should certainly be prepared for his words to arouse scandal and indignation. But he should not be afraid of that. Our mission consists in saying unpleasant things. Have you noticed that when reading the Bible you feel uncomfortable? The Book begins to judge you! But that does not mean that the truth should be kept away. The Lord Himself said: Woe to you, when all men speak well of you.

Another mistake that can lure a missionary is the attempt to direct mission to some definite group of people. There appears a mission for children, a mission for youth… Many smart, deep young people do not accept it. Why so? That is because when we talk to young people using their own language, as if condescending to them, we fix them at this level. But we should elevate them, raise them to wisdom, and not leave them at a level they have probably already grown out of. It is even better to talk to children as if they were grown-ups. Do you remember Makarevich singing in a very Christian way; “It’s not worth being weighed down by the fickle world”? That should be a motto not only for missionaries, but for all Orthodox Christians.

And certainly we must not forget about prayer and going to church, because sometimes an incorrect missionary outreach can enthrall someone so much that he does not pray or go to church.

And why must we go to church every Sunday?

Because Christ gave us such a commandment: six days are for you, and the seventh is for the Lord God. He can demand us to return part of our time as our sacrifice. And the second thing: we should remember our Heavenly Master, our Heavenly Motherland.
If you will, all we Christians are terrorists. We are the members of a rebellious army, which is revolting against the prince of this world (the devil). Churches are linking stations. There we get information from our governing body: ciphers (New Testament), reinforcement (Holy Communion), and we get support through mutual communication. We master all kinds of tricks in order to commit terrorist attacks against the prince of this world, that is, we learn how to do good. Obviously if an agent of the Holy Kingdom shirks attending the headquarters and does not keep in touch with the command center, he can easily get lost, lose his power, and fall in battle. According to the rules of the Church, someone who without sufficient cause goes three Sundays without attending the Divine Liturgy is exempted from Communion.

Often those who do not attend church tend to get tired very quickly. If someone thinks that he will sleep in on Sunday to make up for the rest of the week instead of attending the Liturgy, he will very soon understand that Sunday sleep does not bring pleasure. You can eat a ram, but remain hungry, or you can sleep for twenty-five hours, but still feel sleepy. If God does not give you power, you will never find it in any other place.

If you are in love with someone, you constantly wish to see your loved one, to communicate. You do not have to force such a one to go on a date, do you? Christianity is built on the love between God and man.

It is still very important not to search for justifications if you miss a church service. We can find one thousand justifications, but this will only make things worse. It is necessary to struggle ruthlessly with sin, with laziness. Christians are beings of another kind. There are Homo sapiens, and there is Homo Christianus. Christians should communicate with their like.

Why do Christians have a different nature?

A Christian is a person plus the Divine force given to it in Baptism. A non-Christian is simply a person, besides being enslaved by the devil. Either the Holy Spirit is in your heart or the devil is in your heart – can you see the difference?

Everyone has his way to church. But as a missionary you must have some amazing stories about people’s conversion.

Why go far? We have a member of our parish, Tatyana Imranovna, my closest assistant. She converted from Islam to occultism, and from there, having encountered unpleasant things that frightened her, to Orthodoxy. She came to Christ – at first simply as a way to rescue. Then she began to “churchify.” And the closer she came to the Church, the worse her parents condemned her. It is strange – the worse they behaved towards her, the more problems they had. For example, they cursed her, they threw out her icons – and the same night their dacha burnt down. Here is an example for you of how God protects His own.

There are also examples of miraculous healings. Once the parents of a child, Pentecostals, came to me. They had taken their child to see all kinds of “psychics.” As a result the child had a fever up to 39 C for three months. Nothing could help. We Baptised him very solemnly at the Baptismal Liturgy. He stood, of course, very weakly, but showed interest in everything. We gave him Holy Communion and they went home. He went to sleep, woke up – and his temperature was 36.6. He has not been ill for several years since then.

Quite often it happens that everything is explained to someone. He agrees with you in mind, but does not accept it with his heart. But pray for him, and he changes. It always happens that after a moleben for the return of the erring that several people are Baptized.

So if you wish to see many miracles – you should become a missionary or a martyr. They say that if you wish to anoint someone with myrrh you should pour it into your hand and smell it yourself, and only then anoint another person. It is the same thing here: if you wish to tell another about the power of God, you should first feel the power of God yourself.

Source: Orthodoxy and the World
A Statement by Fr. Daniil’s widow, Matushka Yulia Sysoeva
Photos and an article on Fr. Danii’s death and funeral
Thanks to ROCOR Unity for posting these.

Written by Stephen

November 26, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Ss. Clement, Pope of Rome, and Clement of Ohrid

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St. Clement, Pope of Rome

Both commemorated November 25. St. Clement of Ohrid is also commemorated on July 27.

St. Clement, Pope of Rome
The Hieromartyr Clement, Pope of Rome, was born at Rome into a rich and illustrious family. Separated from his parents from childhood by force of circumstances, Clement was raised by strangers. Living in Rome, the youth received a fine education, he was surrounded by luxury, and had access to the imperial court. But these comforts brought him no joy, and pagan wisdom failed to attract him. He began to ponder the meaning of life.

When the news of Christ and His teaching began to reach the capital, St Clement left his home and estate and went to the lands where the Apostles were preaching. At Alexandria St Clement met the holy Apostle Barnabas, listening to his words with deep attention, and perceiving the power and truth of the Word of God. Arriving in Palestine, St Clement was baptized by the holy Apostle Peter and became his zealous disciple and constant companion, sharing his toil and sufferings with him. Shortly before his own sufferings and death, St Peter consecrated St Clement as Bishop of Rome. After the death of the Apostle Peter, St Linus (67-79) was the next Bishop of Rome, succeeded by St Anacletus (79-91), and then St Clement (92-101).

The virtuous life, charitable works and prayerful activity of St Clement converted many to Christ. He once baptized 424 people on the day of Pascha. Among the baptized were people of all social classes: slaves, officials, and even members of the imperial family.

The pagans, seeing the success of his apostolic preaching, denounced St Clement to the emperor Trajan (98-117), accusing the saint of insulting the pagan gods. The emperor banished St Clement from the capital, sending him to the Crimea, to work at a stone quarry near the city of Cherson. Many of the saint’s disciples followed after him voluntarily, preferring to go into exile rather than live without their spiritual Father.

When he arrived at the place of exile, St Clement found many Christian believers there, sentenced to labor under harsh conditions amidst a scarcity of water. He prayed together with the condemned, and the Lord appeared to him in the form of a lamb and revealed the location of a spring, from which gushed forth a veritable river of water. This miracle attracted a multitude of people to St Clement. Hearing the zealous preacher, hundreds of pagans were converted to Christ. Each day 500 or more men were baptized. And there in the stone quarry, a church was built, in which he served as priest.

The apostolic activity of the saint aroused the wrath of the emperor Trajan, and he ordered that St Clement be drowned. They threw the martyr into the sea with an anchor tied to his neck. This occurred in the year 101.

The saint’s faithful disciples Cornelius and Fibius asked the people to pray that the Lord would permit them to see the martyr’s body. The sea drew back a distance of three miles from the shore and the people walked out on the seabed until they found a marble cave shaped like a church. There they found the incorrupt body of their archpastor in this “Angelic Church” formed by God. After this, each year on the anniversary of St Clement’s martyric death the sea receded, and for seven days Christians were able to venerate his holy relics.

During the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus (802-811), by divine providence, the sea failed to withdraw, and the relics of St Clement became inaccessible for fifty years. In the time of the emperor Michael and his mother Theodora (855-867), Sts Cyril and Methodius visited Cherson. When they learned of the concealed relics of St Clement, they asked Bishop George of Cherson to pray that the Lord would show them the relics of the hieromartyr.

Sts Cyril and Methodius walked along the shore in procession with the clergy who came with them from Constantinople. Through the fervent prayers of everyone gathered there, the holy relics of St Clement miraculously appeared on the surface of the sea at midnight. They solemnly took them to the Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople. A portion of the relics were then brought to Rome by Sts Cyril and Methodius, but a large portion of the relics was later brought to Kiev by the holy Prince Vladimir (July 15) and placed in the Desyatin-Tithe church, together with the relics of St Fibius, where a chapel dedicated to St Clement had been built. The hieromartyr Clement is widely venerated in Russia. From ancient times, many churches have been dedicated to him.

St Clement, who belongs to the Apostolic Fathers, has left to us a spiritual legacy (two Epistles to the Corinthians) the first written examples of Christian teaching after the writings of the holy Apostles.

St. Clement of Ohrid

St. Clement of Ohrid
Saints Clement, Bishop of Ochrid, Equal of the Apostles, Naum, Sava, Gorazd and Angelar were Slavs, disciples of Sts Cyril and Methodius (May 11). At first they lived as ascetics in Moravia, where St Gorazd succeded St Methodius as bishop. He was fluent in Slavonic, Greek and Latin. Sts Clement, Naum, Angelar and Sava were priests.

The Enlighteners of the Slavs were opposed by German missionaries, who had the support of the Pope and the patronage of the Moravian prince Svyatopolk. The struggle centered around the questions of the need for divine services in Slavonic, the Filioque and Saturday fasting. Pope Stephen VI prohibited the use of Slavonic in church.

The proponents of the three-tongued heresy (who wanted to use only Hebrew, Greek, or Latin for Church purposes), after setting aside the ancestral language of the Slavic peoples, brought the disciples of St Methodius to trial, including St Clement. They subjected them to fierce torture: dragging them through thorns, and holding them in prison for a long time, just as they had done with their spiritual Father, St Methodius.

In 886, some of the prisoners were sold to slave-traders, and ended up in the Venice marketplace. The ambassador of the Byzantine Emperor Basil the Macedonian went to Venice, ransomed the saints and brought them to Constantinople. The older confessors were banished. It is not known where St Gorazd went, nor where St Sava found shelter. Naum and Angelar went to Bulgaria.

In 907 Moravia collapsed under the onslaught of the Magyars, and Moravian refugees escaped along those same paths followed earlier by the saints they had exiled.

The Bulgarians received the Slavonic confessors with respect and requested them to conduct divine services in the Slavonic language. The Bulgarian prince Boris sought out such people as the disciples of St Methodius, who labored for the enlightenment of his nation. The saints immediately began to study Slavonic books collected by the Bulgarian nobles.

St Angelar soon died, and St Clement received the appointment to teach at Kutmichivitsa, a region in southwest Macedonia. In the Eastern Church a worthy man was chosen to be a teacher, someone known for his pious life, and possessed with a gift of words. St Clement was a teacher while he was still in Moravia. In Bulgaria, St Clement worked as an instructor until 893. He organized a school at the princely court, which attained high esteem during the reign of Simeon. In southwest Macedonia he created separate schools for adults and for children.

St Clement instructed the children in reading and in writing. The total number of his students was enormous. Those chosen and accepted for the clergy amounted to 3500 men. In the year 893, St Clement became Bishop of Dremvitsa, or Velitsa, and St Naum took his place.

St Clement was the first Bulgarian hierarch to serve, preach and write in the Slavonic language. To this end he systematically prepared clergy from among the Slavic people. The holy bishop labored for the glory of God into his old age. When his strength failed, and he was unable to fulfill his responsibilities in the cathedral, he asked Tsar Simeon to let him retire.

The Tsar urged the saint not to forsake the cathedral, and St Clement agreed to continue his episcopal service. After this he went to Ochrid, to a monastery he founded. There the saint continued with his translation activities and translated important parts of the PENTEKOSTARION.

Soon the saint became seriously ill and departed to the Lord in the year 916. The saint’s body was placed in a coffin he made with his own hands, and was buried in Ochrid’s St Panteleimon monastery.

St Clement is considered the first Slavonic author. He not only continued the translation work begun by Sts Cyril and Methodius, but also left behind works of his own composition, the first samples of Slavonic spiritual literature.

Many of the lessons and sermons of St Clement were brought to Russia, where they were read and lovingly copied by pious Russian Christians.

Source: OCA, here and here.

Written by Stephen

November 25, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Posted in European Saints, Saints

Mongolian Booklets on Orthodoxy

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T20091027mongoliahe first booklet in Mongolian in the series ‘The Path of Orthodoxy: Everyone Can Become a Saint’ has come out, Rev. Alexiy Trubach, rector of the Parish of the Holy Trinity in Ulan-Bator, has reported to the DECR Communication Service.

This educational series has been written by Yu. Maximov, a well-known researcher of religion and lecturer at the Moscow Theological Academy. He has admitted that this catechesis was written with a missionary purpose to preach the gospel to peoples raised in Buddhist traditions and therefore to the people of Mongolia.

The first booklet is devoted the questions: what brings suffering, who has established physical and spiritual laws and what are the ways of our Creator? In total, it is planned to publish 15 booklets.

Source: Orthodoxy in China

Written by Stephen

November 16, 2009 at 11:25 am

Posted in Mongolia, Publications

Pastoral Trips to Vietnam

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20090313vietnamWith the blessing of Archbishop Benjamin of Vladivostok and the Primorsky area, a delegation of the Vladivostor Diocese will be in the Republic of Vietnam with a pastoral visit from 31 October to 14.

It will be headed by Archpriest Sergiy Yakutov, dean of the central diocesan district. Visits are planned to the city of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Vung Tau and Kamran, reports the Diocesan website.

“On November 4, the day of the commemoration of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, we will have a festal divine service in honor of the parish patronal feast in the town of Vung Tau; this is perhaps the main goal of our regular pastoral visits to Vietnam,” stated Archpriest Sergiy on the eve of his departure.

In addition to divine services, there are plans for familiarization tours and formal meetings, including one with the newly appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Russia in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam A. Kovtun.

Source: Orthodoxy in China
An article about the first pastoral visit and liturgy in Vietnam in March 2009 can be found here.
Also, I think that the picture above is from the first pastoral visit in March.

Written by Stephen

November 11, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Vietnam