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New Orthodox Community in Philippines

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P1040796
By the Grace of God the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia established a new Orthodox Community in Davao, Philippines. The Orthodox Community of Saint Isidore of Chios in San Guillermo,Davao.

On Monday, December 17,2012, Metropolitan Nektarios of Hong Kong visited San Guillermo and chrismated 71 catechumens. Among them were some catechumens from Lake Cebu and Kisulan. The Service of Chrismation was held at the new Church of Saint Isidore of Chios, which is being build by the members of the newly created Orthodox Community.

On Tuesday, December 18, Metropolitan Nektarios traveled to Manila where he visited the Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral and had several working meetings.

Source: Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia

More pictures can be found here. Other recent photo stories from the Philippines can be found here and here.

Written by Stephen

January 14, 2013 at 11:27 am

ROCOR in Pakistan

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253431_480300635327915_1171068380_nA few years ago I blogged about the first Orthodox priest and parish in Pakistan, Fr. John Tanveer, under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Now, ROCOR also has a parish there, started recently by Fr. Adrian Augustus.

The following is an interview with Fr. Adrian about his own conversion to Orthodoxy and his work in Pakistan. There is also an active Facebook page for the church here, and their website is here. (Incidentally, the EP church has their Facebook page here, and their website here.)

On September 18, 2012, the Missionary Department of Moscow Theological Academy hosted a meeting with Priest Adrian Augustus of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, who is ministering to an Orthodox Christian parish he founded in Pakistan.

Path to Christ. Priesthood.

My conversion to Orthodoxy was not easy. Until my conversion in 2007, I was an Anglican deacon in India. When I began to seek Orthodoxy, I sent many letters with questions on the faith to the only person who would provide detailed answers, Vladyka Hilarion, who was then Archbishop of Sydney. I hail from a very poor family, my mother was a school teacher, and life proceeded in a strict Catholic spirit. When Vladyka suggested that I enroll in seminary in Jordanville, NY, my mother fell very ill, and I found myself in a difficult situation—going to America was practically impossible for me. Three months later, Vladyka Hilarion wrote that he could receive me in Australia. Vladyka and I then became like father and son. Everything I know about Orthodox Christianity I learned from him. I wished very much to become a priest, but did not ask Vladyka to ordain me, expecting that the Lord Himself would make it happen. When I was finally ordained, I did not wish to limit my ministry to a parish: I wished for our true faith to be accessible to everyone. Many people in Pakistan and in India would like to learn about Orthodoxy and become zealous Christians, but they have little opportunity to do this.

It is very difficult in Pakistan today because of the Muslim government, and it is unsafe for white people to live in the country, so missionaries don’t wish to go there. True, Pakistan is not a safe country by any means. One must note that this country is dangerous not only for white people and foreigners, but even for its own citizens: within the country, Muslims fight with other Muslims, Muslims kill other Muslims. Pakistan is divided into three big groups. In the north are Pashtuns from Afghanistan, the Punjabs live in the middle, the Sindhis live in the south, and within Sindhi itself is a small group of Indians, and these populations are all in conflict. A Pakistani simply does not know when he leaves his home in the morning whether he will return that night.

A Voice from Pakistan.

There were two people in Pakistan who left the Catholic seminary and, as did I some time ago, and e-mailed letters with questions about faith, seeking to find Orthodoxy. Vladyka Hilarion forwarded these letters to me, since I know the mindset of these people and could determine whether these were genuine believers or if they were sent by people who have no desire to find Christ. The population of Pakistan is very poor, and this could simply have been a scam. When I read these e-mails, though, my heart was moved. I didn’t think twice, and asking Vladyka’s blessing, headed for Pakistan.

When I arrived, I was very surprised: instead of the two people who wrote the e-mails, I was greeted by some fifty people. When I settled into my hotel room, I was not allowed to go outside. The problem was this: It is still dangerous for me to come to Pakistan, because I have lighter skin, being Indian. There were four wars between Pakistan and India, and when I arrived, I was viewed as a spy. But a local member of Parliament gave me permission to leave the hotel for twelve hours, deeming me a missionary and not a spy. The press reported that some priest arrived, and even more people came to see me, and, praying to the Holy Spirit, I began to preach. At first I tried to talk about the time before the Birth of Christ. Then I told them about the Nativity itself, the creation of the Church, the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and the roles that priests and deacons play. I tried to explain that accepting Orthodoxy in not that simple, that a person must be transformed first. The only normal reason to come to Orthodoxy is to become a saint in the Church, because the human soul unites with God after death. And the role of the priest is to give a person a nudge to begin this effort. There is no easy way of doing this, prayer is needed, and fasting and the fulfillment of all the other Orthodox methods. After a two-hour sermon, many questions were raised by those who sought the true faith, there were representatives of agencies who tried to find something suspicious in my sermon. That night,  about 110 Catholics joined the Orthodox faith. The next day I was also able to baptize about 74 people from 10 Pakistani families. I asked people why they were so interested in my sermon, and they said that they were touched that I, as an Indian, came to them to preach Orthodox Christianity to them, and that I did not look at them as some kind of bad people, I did not judge the way they looked—these Pakistanis are poor, simple peasants. In the church, and during our discussions, I do not take a chair when they sit on the floor—I sit beside them. These people are in special need of pastoral care, for they have no one who will listen to them: neither in the mosque or the Catholic Church. We must keep in mind that in Pakistan and in India, the Catholic Church is a very large, powerful organization. Catholic seminarians are often sent to work as directors of local schools immediately upon graduation, schools that every child aspires to be accepted into. As school directors, Catholic pastors forget that they are first and foremost pastors, not school directors. I explain to the people who come to see me that my task as a priest is to serve people towards their salvation, to love and care for them.

Vladyka was happy to see me return alive…

My next challenge was to preserve the community of one hundred converted Pakistanis. When I returned to Australia, I told Vladyka right away that we must hasten to organize a mission in Pakistan. Vladyka Hilarion gave me his blessing to establish the Archangel Michael Mission. I asked people in Pakistan why they invited me instead of other Orthodox priests who already serve in Pakistan. They answered that those priests belong to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, while I belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, and since the Russian Church is the largest of all National Churches which consists of many different peoples, they hoped to receive care from the Russian Church. Considering all the saints who glorified the Russian land, seeing that I belong to this same Russian Church, the Pakistanis believed that I, too, could love them and care for them. I also asked Vladyka Hilarion to appoint more priests so that Divine Liturgy could be celebrated there soon.

My second trip to Pakistan lasted 10 days. This time my chief mission was pastoral care. I met with people, trying to understand their needs, trying to let them “spread my wings” over them. I was then able, for the first time, to celebrate Liturgy in the Russian style but in the Urdu tongue. I was also able to convert a former Catholic priest and his wife to Orthodoxy. Once, as he was translating Liturgical text into Urdu, the words that the priest is to speak touched his heart, and he wished to turn back to those times when these prayers were being composed. This was the reason he wished to convert to Orthodoxy. This last time, over 50 new people came to Christ.

I also wish to say that I now have the ability to travel to Pakistan without an invitation. Once I was able to meet with the Pakistani ambassador and explain who I am and what the Orthodox Church is, and explain that I am no spy, etc. He congratulated me on my efforts in working towards the good of Pakistanis, but said that doing missionary work on a tourist visa is illegal, and then he said a remarkable thing. He told me that he believes in my work in Pakistan, and that I can receive a missionary visa. It is almost impossible for a Christian priest to receive a missionary visa in an Islamic country. During my next trip there I met with Pakistani intelligence, I showed them my cross and my missionary visa, stating that the government permitted me to work here. You can believe me or not, I said. They asked what my plans were, and I said I wanted to build a church. There are three Christians in the Pakistani community who wish to become priests, and they face their own challenges. Orthodox Christians now gather at homes for divine services which are permitted for laypersons to perform themselves; I instructed them to read the Hours and the obednitsa [reader’s service], the Gospel, after which they continue their socializing at tea. It is very important that a regular priest be provided for Pakistan as soon as possible. If a Christian dies, who will conduct funeral services? My next trip to Pakistan is scheduled for January-February, for 5-6 days.

“Neither Greek, Nor Jew”

Next time, a 22-year-old man from Odessa will accompany on my next trip. I invite anyone, not only Australians, but Russians, too, to join me in my work in Pakistan. We have a hotel with armed security, where you will be safe. It is very important for Pakistanis if someone from Russia comes, because then they will feel that the entire Church supports them, cares for them. If you visit them, try to be as gregarious as you can, and poor people will give their last penny to make you feel comfortable.

My dream is to disseminate Orthodoxy, I have no fear of death, because I do everything for the sake of the Church, the Church is my family, my life, the Orthodox Faith overfills me, and I wish to share this with others.

-Fr Adrian, is this your first visit to Russia?

-Yes, this is my first time here. Russia was always a country I wished to visit. Of course, because of the Orthodox Church, I would be happy to stay here forever. One of the favorite saints of the Pakistani community is St Sergius of Radonezh. Being able to venerate his relics was very special for me.

-Do you plan on working with the Moscow Theological Academy?

-Yes. Three of our candidates will soon head for Thailand to see Fr Oleg for Liturgical practice. And I plan to send future candidates here, too. We also have six young women who wish to become nuns, they are about twenty years old. When I asked why, they said that they wish to become brides of Christ. You should know that in Pakistan, as a Muslim nation, a woman has no rights. Two of them were novices in a Catholic convent for six years. Nuns in the Catholic Church are different from Orthodox nuns. We have completely different rules. Fr Georgy Maksimov and I are trying to organize their trip to convents in Russia for a few weeks, so that they could experience that life for themselves.

-You will soon be inviting seminarians to join your mission in Pakistan. What requirements will you have of anyone wishing to go?

-To leave their pride at home. If someone pours you tea in a broken mug, thank them and drink it. The main thing is to be friendly, to love them—that is all you need. Of course, you have to imagine what Islam is and to be able to explain if needed why salvation is found in Orthodoxy, and nowhere else. Of course, I guarantee that you will be safe, better that I die than someone else suffers. One should not think about the Taliban, the community is fairly safe. It would be good if two or three students could go and help me with Liturgy, though I serve in Urdu, some songs could be sung in Church Slavonic.

-What will those who volunteer to go with you do? What will their job be?

– To sit with people and a translator whom I will provide, and tell them about the holy fathers, about Orthodox Christianity, the meaning of life. If you look at our photographs, you would see that I sit with them on the ground, without my cassock, and we talk like friends. My personal experience is that the true spread of the Gospel occurs during a cup of tea, during friendly conversation.

– Not all seminarians have the missionary spirit you speak of; do you think that seminaries can instill the desire to spread the truth to their students?

– It is very egotistical to want to save only oneself. It is easy to save yourself, but to save yourself and your neighbor is much harder. One must think about people who do not know Orthodoxy, do not know the true faith, one must remember that they are dying spiritually. Our goal is to bring them to faith. The seminary must use special programs, they must stress the importance of missionary work, and point to the examples of St Nicholas of Japan, Equal-to-the-Apostles, St John of Shanghai. And of course, it is desirable to invite renowned missionaries to read lectures on their experience.

– Fr Adrian, who finances your trips?

– I do, by working in American Express Bank five days a week.

– Tell us what in the Gospel touches the hearts of the Pakistani people most?

– They had heard the Gospel from the Catholics, and Evangelicals, and Anglicans. I try to emphasize life according to the Gospel, not simply teach them lessons about it. I explain that the Church is not a social club, the main goal of the Church is to approach holiness. In the Church we must see to it that the Gospel is preserved in our hearts, and, as we leave the temple, we must spread this Word of God to the whole world, so that it would give strength to us and to our neighbors.

– What questions are most often asked of you by your flock?

– Most often I am asked about the difference between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. I try to understand them and teach them that their goal is to approach sanctity. The problem is that Catholics don’t approach the level of the common man, they look upon a person as does a judge. As I said, Catholic priests often forget their pastoral role, but when Pakistanis receive care from an Orthodox priest, love is generated, and they immediately see the difference between Orthodoxy and other teachings. They see that this Indian priest named Adrian came to them and cares for them. I learned this from Vladyka Hilarion: when I was in Australia, Vladyka, at the time only an Archbishop, picked me up from the airport in his car, took me home and made me dinner.

Denis Grishkov

Source: ROCOR website

Written by Stephen

December 3, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Posted in Asia, Pakistan, ROCOR

Prayer Book and Psalter in Thai and Laotian

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Pages from the Russian-Laotian prayer book.

Russian-Laotian Orthodox prayer book published.

A parallel Russian-Laotian Orthodox prayer book has been published. The publication under the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in Thailand, is part of the pastoral responsibility to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Financial support for the publication was provided by the Foundation of the Orthodox Church in Thailand. The volume was edited by archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin), Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand. Peter (Pone) Somepheth and Anthony (Tongkham) Phiaxayavong, currently seminarians at St. Petersburg Theological Seminary, translated the text from Thai. Dr. Vladimir Buntilov was in charge of formatting and design. Five hundred copies will be sent to the Orthodox believers in Laos, as well as several copies going to religious educational institutions in Russia and missionary organizations.

A published edition of the Psalter for liturgical use in the Thai language.

The Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in Thailand with the financial support of the Orthodox Church in Thailand published the liturgical Psalter in Thai. The division of the sacred text is according to the Kathismas. This first edition of the Psalter in the Thai language according to the Septuagint version with the appropriate numbering and verses. The publication of the liturgical Psalter in Thai was done in view of the increasing number of Orthodox Thais and the need for their more active involvement in church services. Five hundred copies will be distributed among the Orthodox churches in Thailand. Several copies will be sent to religious educational institutions of Russia and missionary organizations.

Source: Orthodox Christian Church in Thailand (Moscow Patriarchate)

Hat Tip: Byzantine, TX

Written by Stephen

November 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Ancient Faith Radio: Orphans in Russia, Guatemala, and India

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Children from Hogar Rafael

Continuing to post on recent missions-related podcasts at Ancient Faith Radio, here are a few about orphans and orphanages around the world.

The Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund
From Russia, there is an interview with Georgia Williams, a founder and administrator of the Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund, which seeks to assist orphanages and orphans through camps and education, and so on, including those deemed unmanageable or unteachable. (Turns out they are teachable!) In addition to describing their work, Georgia also discusses new partnerships ROOF is hoping to form with Orthodox parishes and people in North America to further the work in Russia. You can find the interview here. It is well worth a listen.

Hogar Rafael Ayau Orthodox Orphanage, Guatemala
Hogar Rafael has become fairly well known in North American Orthodox circles. Here are two more podcasts about the work there.

The first is with Mother Abbess Ines about some new laws governing orphans and adoptions in Guatemala that is making it more difficult for the orphanage to operate, as well as an update on the building of a new orphanage site just outside of Guatemala City, which would be a much better environment for the children. You can listen to that here.

If you feel moved to assist Hogar Rafael with their building project after listening to that first podcast, you can listen to this second one about a new CD released by the Friends of the Hogar. The CD is of the children singing Orthodox hymns (they sing beautifully and apparently know everything by heart), and is being sold as a fundraiser. You can listen to that podcast here, and/or buy a CD here.

Theotokos Greek Orthodox Girl’s Orphanage, India
Lastly, there is an interview with Christina Thanos, who produced a short documentary called Lucky Girls about the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Girl’s Orphanage. She also organized a lenten fundraising campaign for the orphanage. Lent is over, but they are still accepting donations, even of just a few dollars. You can listen to the podcast here, and visit the film’s website, which includes fundraising details, here.

Lucky Girls from Lucky Girls on Vimeo.

Written by Stephen

May 30, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Met. Ambrose of Korea Speaking to Protestants on Missions and Liturgy

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Hat tip to Byzantine, Texas. There are also a couple of good comments over on that site regarding this post, worth checking out.

(Pantokrator Monastery) – 12 Questions and Answers on Orthodox Confession and Worship. Transcribed by A.D Kondogianakopoulou.

On Monday 5 September, following an invitation from a Protestant theological school (postgraduate level) located outside Seoul, the Most Reverent Metropolitan of Korea, Fr. Ambrose, gave two lectures to 35 postgraduate students, all pastors. The lessons, within which the lectures were given, were on missions and the Liturgy. We have recorded the discussions for the most part that followed after each lecture and provide it below since we believe that the topics raised as well as the manner of their delivery of the Orthodox confession in Korea is of particular interest.

***

1st Question: What is your understanding of missionary activities in the Orthodox Church?

Answer: To start with, the term “mission” does not express the spirit of the Orthodox Church. We use it compromisingly because it has universal prevalence. Instead we prefer the term “witness.” The term mission, which derives from Western theology, does not exist in Holy Scripture, while the corresponding term, witness, is found many times. The teaching of the Gospel does not mean to say beautiful words about Christ but to give a daily witness of Christ with one’s words and with one’s silence, with works and by example. And if need be, if necessary, to martyr for Christ, namely, to spill one’s blood for Christ, as was done by millions of martyrs and confessors of the faith.

2nd Question: What is your opinion on proselytism?

Answer: In the Orthodox Church we consider proselytism a great sin because it does not honour man. It tramples upon the precious divine gift of freedom and debases man’s personality. Proselytism means to impose on someone else your beliefs by lawful and unlawful means, while confessing Christ means to struggle, to live according to Christ and to repeat by one’s words and life, the perennial “come and see” of the Apostle Philip to any well-intentioned “Nathanael” – your neighbour. The disastrous results of proselytism of the so-called missionary countries by Western Christianity, which we face to this day, I believe, does not leave any margin for the indefinite condemnation of the proselytising process.

3rd Question: What process is followed in the Orthodox Church for someone to work as a missionary?

Answer: In the Orthodox Church, the deacons of the Bible are not self-called but other-called. In other words, someone does not decide by himself to work as a missionary but is sent by the Church. Obedience to the Church is the only soul-saving route. If we remember, for example, the case of Barnabas and Paul, we see that the Holy Spirit chose them and the Church through prayer and fasting sent them to preach. (Acts 13:3) And when they returned to Jerusalem they informed the Church which sent them of “everything that God did through them.” (Acts 15:4)

This subject has great theological significance for the spreading of the true faith and for the unity of the Church. If everyone acts according to his opinion and desire, then the faith and unity of the Church is in danger.

At this point permit me to mention the following event: Once I flew from America to Greece with an American woman, a self-appointed missionary. When I asked her why she chose Greece for her missionary work, she told me that she admired the Greeks a lot because she knew a lot about their glorious ancient history, and that is why she had great zeal to Christianize them.

“Do you know what modern-day Greeks believe in?” I asked her.

“Of course, the twelve gods of Olympus!” she answered.

“Do you know,” I told her, “that 2000 years before you some other apostle, the Great Apostle of the Nations Paul went to Greece and preached Christianity? And that Greeks have had an uninterrupted Christian Orthodox tradition ever since?”

Such waggishness and much worse happens when behind every self-called missionary it is not the Church doing the sending.

4th Question: You accused the woman from America who went to Greece as a missionary. Why did you come to Korea? Are you not doing the same?

Answer: No, I did not do the same, nor did I accuse the lady. I simply mentioned the event to show what can happen if the missionary work of someone does not have proper ecclesiological foundations. You know better than me that in Korea there are millions of people who are not only non-Christians but are also pagans. However, Greece is a country with two thousand years of Christian history with a population of over 90% Christian. If Korea was a Christian country, the Ecumenical Patriarchate wouldn’t have sent me here.

To be more clear allow me to add the following: At the University where I teach, the parents of one of our female students are in Greece as self-appointed missionaries. And, in fact, the place they chose for their missionary activities, was the holy island of Patmos! The island of the Revelation, where the traces of the Evangelist of love, Saint John the theologian, are still fully obvious. On this island, where many Christian saints lived and acted, there are an innumerable number of churches and monasteries where the Orthodox faith of its inhabitants has its roots in the apostolic period. One could ask what could they teach the Orthodox inhabitants of the island, two Koreans who became Christians a few years earlier? Don’t you think that it is not honest to try to change the faith of people who carry in their DNA a tradition of twenty centuries?

In the same way, it was not honorable what the Roman Catholic Church did during the 90’s, after the fall of communism in Russia. Immediately after, the Uniates ran to underhandedly convert the Russians with their centuries-old tradition into Roman Catholics. If one wishes to do missionary work, let him turn to other non-Christian countries.

5th Question: Would you like to tell us about the personality of a missionary (hierapostle)?

Answer: In answering your very substantial question, I will try to explain very briefly what the theoretically ideal missionary is like. Of course, I am not maintaining that what should be done is always what is done. The one doing the missionary work of the Church must first have Christ as their prototype and all those who followed the steps of Christ, namely the saints. The missionary must without doubt be a person of many virtues, the main one being that of a person struggling against his passions. The cleansing for the acquisition of the Holy Spirit is the first step. From cleansing one then progresses to enlightenment and theosis (deification). You cannot transfer to somebody something that you do not have. To give a witness of Christ you yourself must necessarily have tasted the presence of Christ in your life.
Question 6: What is the method for missionary work in the Orthodox Church?

Answer: In the Orthodox Church we follow the practice of the early Church as we find it in the Book of Acts. When the Apostles saw that their numerous cares for the service of the tables would “steal” time away from their main work, they proposed to elect seven deacons. For themselves they announced to all the following decision: “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). In other words, the Orthodox Church following the apostolic tradition places worship before preaching. One can easily see this, if they visit a worship service at an Orthodox Church and then does the same at a protestant assembly. The emphasis in a congregation of the Orthodox is dedicated to the worship of God, while for the Protestants it is preaching. That is why we often hear from the Protestants who have come to know Orthodoxy that “in our congregations we hear many words, but in the Orthodox Church we pray a lot and hear few.”

We Orthodox are taught the Holy Gospel, which we always have at the centre of the Holy Altar to remind us that the word of God must be at the centre of our daily life, during our Divine Worship in three ways. Firstly, we read it. At every holy service, holy readings are read. Specifically, at every Divine Liturgy we hear the word of God from the Apostole and Gospel readings and from the divine preaching that follows. Secondly, we sing it. The wonderful, most theological hymns of Orthodox worship are for the most part full of direct and indirect scriptural references. In fact, in many cases if one compares the texts they can see that certain hymns are word-for-word quotes from the scriptural texts. In other words, we have “melodised” the text of Holy Scripture. And thirdly, we see it. We see the Gospel in Orthodox icons. That is, icons are an “illustrated” Gospel. If, for example, we pay attention to the icon of the Transfiguration of the Lord, we shall note that the iconographer through the designs and colours repeats iconographically the words of the evangelists who described the miracle of the Transfiguration. In conclusion we say that in the worship of the Orthodox Church we have a perfect audiovisual system of the Gospel teaching.

7th Question: You said that in the Orthodox Church worship takes precedence over preaching. However, the Apostle Paul only preached when at the Areopagus.

Answer: The Apostle Paul was speaking to the Athenian idolaters for the first time. It was logical to start the preaching about the “unknown God.” To which God could he pray with the idolaters? During any other situations though as we learn from Acts, the Apostles followed the hierapostolic method of worship and then preaching. Their gatherings had as their main purpose the “Breaking of bread” and teaching.

8th Question: You have spoken in great length on worship and its centre point, which is, as you said, the Holy Eucharist? How do you believe that the bread and wine is the body and blood of Christ?

Answer: In the Orthodox Church we believe that the greatest work that is performed on earth is the Divine Liturgy. And this is because during the Divine Eucharist we relive the occasion of the Last Supper for the redemption of the human race. Just as then when in the upper room in Jerusalem Christ surrendered His Body and His Blood to His disciples, so it is that at every Divine Liturgy Christ Himself is invisibly present hypostatically and essentially as victim and sacrificer and imparts His Body and His Blood to the baptized faithful, who occupy the place of the Apostles. And, of course, we who receive Holy Communion believe that we commune the same holy Body and Blood of Christ “for the redemption of sins and unto life eternal.” Not symbolically, because Christ did not say during the Last Supper to His disciples, “Receive, eat, this is like My Body” or “Drink from this all of you, this is like my blood” but “this is My Body” and “this is My Blood.”

9th Question: In other words, what we do in our worship is nothing?

Answer: The great difference between Orthodox worship and yours is the fact that in your worship an imaginary representation is made of the sacrifice of Christ, namely a fictitious act of the Last Supper. In contrast, in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Christ are present, and Christ is given “again and many times” to “be eaten and be drunk” by the faithful – “Always consumed but never spent”. The Apostles received the tradition of the celebration of the “Last Supper” from the Lord. They passed it on to their disciples and the Orthodox Church continues this tradition to this day without interruption. In the ecclesiastical history of the Early Church there are great number of references to the time of the persecutions and the catacombs that testify to the zeal of the first Christians and the dangers they ignored by participating in the Eucharistic gatherings to commune the Body and Blood of Christ.

For us Orthodox, it is incomprehensible how Protestant theology interprets passages of Holy Scripture that speak most clearly about the heavenly Bread, such as those found in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. John: “He who eats of my Body and drinks of my Blood has eternal life and I shall raise him in the last day” (John 6:54) and “he who eats of my Body and drinks of my Blood dwells in Me and I in him.” (John 6:56) Just as our body has absolute need of actual, and not symbolic, food and drink to be sustained in life, likewise our soul has absolute need of the Body and Blood of Christ that it may not die spiritually. We cannot live either in this or the next life if we do not eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ. Perhaps this sounds harsh. However, let us remember that many of the disciples ceased to follow Christ after everything He told them about His flesh and His blood. And addressing the twelve He asked them “Don’t you too wish to leave?” (John 6:67) He repeats the same even today to all who wish to be Christians but do not wish to believe and accept the whole teaching of Christ.

10th Question: Is man not saved only by preaching? Why do you insist so much on the topic of worship?

Answer: The salvific work of the Church is not accomplished only through preaching. Someone listening to the word of God and saying, “I am saved” does not mean that he has already been saved. The Orthodox Church apart from the word of God also offers man the sacramental life. Man, by participating in the Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church, is sanctified and achieves theosis. The offering, for example, of Holy Communion to the faithful is done “for the remission of sins and life eternal.” The faithful through the Holy Eucharist are mystically unified with Christ and become “partakers of the divine nature…” (2 Pet. 1:4) What else is the salvation of man beyond this?

11th Question: How can you explain to us what a Mystery (Sacrament) is?

Answer: It is hard for one to believe in the sacramental life of the Church if he does not first understand what the word “Mystery” means. A Mystery is something we see being performed but is impossible for man’s mind to comprehend how it is performed. If we could understand the manner in which the Mystery is taking place then it would not be a Mystery, but a common daily human activity.

We say, for example, that God is Triune. I ask you: Who of us understands the Mystery of the Holy Trinity? Three Persons, one Essence! This Mystery when considered with human logic is absurd. However, if a person sees it through the dimension of Faith then he will understand that it is not illogical but beyond logic. Who could understand what God is? What is, for example, the essence of God? NO ONE! Nevertheless, we believe in God. Not because we understand it, but because we feel His presence mystically and we heartily feel His love. In other words, we can understand the uncreated energies of God, as the great fathers of the Orthodox Church have so beautifully theologized about, but not His Essence. Let us see what God said to Moses when he asked God to show him His glory: “I will make my glory pass before you…but you cannot see my face: for there shall be no man see me and live…” (Ex 33:18-20) The same happens in all matters of faith that surpass natural laws. We “see them without seeing them,” we “know them without knowing them” for they are all wrapped up in the “divine darkness” (Gregory of Nyssa). We experience and participate in them only through the power of Faith. If we insist on believing only in what we understand with our finite logic then we narrow extremely our spiritual horizon and in the end cannot be Christians. For ultimately “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1) And, of course, faith is conditional to true humility, with which we attract the grace of God. For “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) The humble man who trusts God more than his logic, with the grace of God, can understand the Mysteries of the Church.

12th Question: How can one study Orthodox theology in Korea?

Answer: Because Orthodox theology is almost unknown in Korea, the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea is trying to build an Orthodox School of Theology, which will be the first not only in Korea but in the whole of East Asia, to provide the possibility to anyone wishing to approach this precious treasure. Pray that our wish soon becomes a reality for the glory of God.

[The lectures with question sessions lasted more than three hours (with a 10 minute interim break) were concluded with the following epilogue.]

My dear, before I leave the rostrum, I would first like to thank you for your polite invitation and for your particularly concise questions. Secondly, I apologize, for it is possible that some of you may have been disturbed by my answers. My intention was not to annoy anybody. Because I believe that for a dialogue to be meaningful and fruitful (for I believe that no one came here to hear empty idle talk and waist one’s time), without doubt, frankness and love must govern, that is why I told you what I believe with the language of truth and love. “Speaking the truth in love…” (Eph. 4:15) and “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) was the scriptural foundation of my thoughts. Finally, I wish to add, to avoid any misunderstanding, that I did not tell you that we, the Orthodox are all holy. Our goal, of course, is our sanctification for which we struggle. However, what everyone does in his personal life is what will be judged by God. What I tried to tell you is that we Orthodox believe steadfastly that we have the correct Faith. We continue in the Faith of the one undivided Church of the first millennium, keeping in mind the apostolic admonition: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold fast the traditions you have been taught, whether by word or by epistle of ours.” (2 Thess. 2:15).

I warmly thank you.

Written by Stephen

May 10, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Taiwanese Orthodox Missionary’s Letter to the Greek People

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A letter from the first Taiwanese Orthodox missionary Pelagia Yu to the Greek people.

I am Chinese, born in Taiwan and my Christian name is Pelagia. I was a Protestant Christian, and it took me five years to become Orthodox. I love to read the Holy Bible and have all of its publications in the Chinese language.

I have visited Greece and discovered that it is a truly unique country. While travelling in your country, even before I arrived, on the plane I saw how different in temperament Greek people were, how cheerfully they conversed with each other, how they laughed and how they applauded the pilot after the landing, something unheard of for us Asians, who are more conservative and do not easily display emotion. I learnt after this experience that the expression of freedom requires passion and liveliness.

In Greece, I visited many churches, I participated in the Divine Liturgy, and when I received Holy Communion it reduced me to tears even though I did not understand the Greek language, because the Orthodox faith is the same, no matter what the language.

I would have liked to be born Greek, to have been born Orthodox, to have received Holy Communion and venerated holy icons from my years of infancy right up until my death.

I cry for me and my compatriots, because instead of Holy Communion, we eat and drink food sacrificed to idols.

I would have liked to be born Greek, so my ears may be filled with holy hymns.

I cry for me and my compatriots, whose ears are filled with the noise of sutras and the screeches of those who worship the idols.

I would have liked to be born Greek, so that I may smell the sweet aroma of incense.

I cry for me and my compatriots, who are constantly assaulted by the pungent smell of the smoke rising up from the sacrifices offered up to the idols.

I would have liked to be born Greek, so that my hands could touch the holy icons, the holy relics of the Saints and be filled with the love of Christ.

I cry for me and my compatriots, whose hands touch the idols and the things sacrificed to them, but who in reality are holding on to nothing.

I would have liked to be born Greek, so that I may light candles to Christ – not like here, where we burn money as an offering to the spirits.

I was searching for the Truth, using more than 30 different publications of the Holy Bible, which unfortunately, were all full of errors (translated by non-Orthodox).

I would have liked to be born Greek, so that I may read the Holy Bible in its original form!

I cry for me and my compatriots, because, although we have eyes, we are blind.

I would have liked to be born Greek, so that I may be able to see the grace of God all around me.

I cry for me and my compatriots, who are surrounded by temples dedicated to false gods.

Yes, I am Orthodox, but living in Taiwan, I have very limited opportunities to experience the Orthodox Christian way of life.

I cry for me, because I do not have the ability to show my compatriots the greatness of our faith. The people here want to see signs and miracles.

I cry for me and my compatriots, because we do not have the gift of hearing of and seeing so many miracles, so many holy words that you have seen and heard over 2000 years in Greece, and which you still see. Taiwan is not an Orthodox country, our feast days and holy days do not look at all like yours.

I am disappointed that in Greece, although you have so many beautiful mountains, you do not look after them, you burn them down. However, I am amazed that practically every mountain in Greece has at least one monastery. We have mountains filled with Buddhist temples and monasteries.

I would have liked to be born Greek, so that I may go and pray at an Orthodox monastery easily.

I cry for me and my compatriots. For the first time, I visited an Orthodox monastery dedicated to St John the Forerunner in Pelion. I travelled to Greece from Taiwan – 16 hours on the plane, a few hours on the train to Larisa and another hour with the monastery car, that was driven by one of the nuns.

I saw the ancient ruins of the Holy Monastery, I saw so many other places in Greece that have been abandoned and my heart bled. In Taiwan, we do not have such a wealth of archaeological artefacts, holy and beautiful places, but you do not appreciate them.

I cry that we do not have beautiful icons. I cry because I feel like Christ is weak and naked here.

Greeks, you think you are poor due to the economic crisis you are going through, but you do not know how truly rich you are.

Taiwan is a country with a huge amount of material development and progress, and yet it remains in the darkness of Satan and our spiritual life is empty.

In Greece, I saw a lot of people, especially on Sundays, drinking and celebrating and not going to church. But here in Taiwan our fellow citizens, mainly young people, even if they wanted to, find it impossible to come to church, because the only Orthodox church in the entire country is a small room on the 4th floor of a huge apartment building on the outskirts of Taipei. Many times, people cannot fit into the church and remain outside for the duration of the services.

My brothers and sisters in Greece, even though I am spiritually handicapped, I still have my legs active so that I can kneel before you and beg.

I pray that you consider me like the poor man Lazarus, so that you may throw to me some crumbs from the spiritual treasures you have, of the gifts you give to your churches, of the many little churches you build on all corners of your homeland.

Our Orthodox flock in Taiwan, as you know, is small – less than 100 people. We are not wealthy. We do not have the means to buy a decent place in the city that will be able to meet our needs for worship, catechism and teaching. Fr. Ionas conducts lessons on a regular basis, targeted mainly at the young people of our city and of course, open to whomever wants to come and meet us in person; those people that up until now have only had the opportunity to see the Orthodox Church in Taiwan through the Internet.

We do not ask for help to build an Orthodox church building here. It would cost millions. Please help us to buy a bigger place in the city centre, which we will convert into a church, for the sake of our nation, our brothers and sisters, who have never had the opportunity to hear about and know our Christ. We are a country of 23 million people! And yet we have need of your help.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, if the need arises, I will do whatever is in my power to repay a little of your love. I will do whatever is needed with all my heart and for the duration of my life.

I thank you. Forgive me.

Pelagia Yu.

Source: Translated by P.S.Z. This article was originally published in Greek in the Periodicαl “Agios Kosmas o Aitolos” (Issue 84 – first quarter 2011) and online at http://www.iersyn.gr/pelagias_letter.php (Tuesday 22nd February 2011).

Hat Tip: Mystagogy

Written by Stephen

May 7, 2011 at 10:53 am

Memory Eternal: Fr. Seraphim Scheidler, of Indonesia, Australia, and America

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From Hexaemeron:

One of the sweetest men we have ever known, Fr. Seraphim Scheidler, reposed in Our Lord, January 17, 2011. He had struggled with a weak heart condition for many years. We first met him in 2003 at our inaugural icon-painting workshop in Lexington, KY. Father became a regular at the Six Days of Creation workshops, sponsored by Hexaemeron non-profit organization, and led by Ksenia Pokrovsky.

Fr. Seraphim loved the Orthodox mission in Indonesia, which he visited twice in an official capacity. In fact, he was ordained to the sub-diaconate at Holy Apostle Thomas Orthodox Church in Jakarta, February 23, 2006, and was initially assigned to work with Fr. Daniel Byantoro, founder of the Indonesian Orthodox Church. Fr. Seraphim’s poor heart-health held him back from realizing his desire to serve in Indonesia along side Fr. Daniel.

Truly, an un-self-conscience servant of love, Fr. Seraphim’s focus was always on the person before him. What a shining light of kindness he was, he is, even more brightly now! Fr. Seraphim was (and is) loved by everyone who has been blessed to know him. We at Hexameron are honored to be among this blessed company. We will greatly miss him.

Memory Eternal, our dear Father and friend!

From the ROCOR website of the Eastern American and New York Diocese:

On Monday, January 17, Priest Seraphim Scheidler, rector of St. Innocent Mission in Nashville, TN reposed in the Lord. He was 68.

Priest Seraphim Scheidler was born on November 25, 1942 in Vienna. In 2007, he was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood by Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney and Australia (currently First Hierarch of ROCOR). After his ordination, Fr. Seraphim fulfilled his service in the Australian Diocese and frequently visited Indonesia in order to assist the missions of the Church Abroad.

Due to serious illness, Fr. Seraphim moved to Nashville, TN and was transferred to the Eastern American Diocese. With the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion, Fr. Seraphim founded the missionary parish of St. Innocent of Moscow in Nashville.

Fr. Seraphim is survived by his Matushka Margaret, his sons James and Nicholas, and his daughters Tatiana and Mary.

The clergy and faithful of the Eastern American Diocese are asked to remember the newly reposed Priest Seraphim at the divine services and in their private prayers.

Condolences can be sent to Matushka Margaret at:
121 Buffalo Street
Old Hickory, TN 37138

Schedule of Funeral Services

Friday, January 21:
Funeral in St. Ignatius Church in Nashville, TN – 7:00 PM
Panihida – 8:00 PM

Monday, January 24:
Burial Service – 10:30 AM, led by Bishop George of Mayfield at Holy Cross Monastery,
followed by memorial repast at the monastery.

According to the obituary, donations in memory of Fr. Seraphim may be made to Friends of Indonesia. Read more about Fr. Seraphim at Journey To Orthodoxy.

Written by Stephen

January 21, 2011 at 7:58 pm