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New Orthodox Community in Philippines

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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

Archbishop Amfilochios on Being a Missionary and on the Orthodox Church in Fiji

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And also the ordination of Fathers Barnabas and Georgios:

All videos have been gotten from the website of the Greek Archdiocese of New Zealand, found here, where more news and videos can be seen.

Written by Stephen

October 18, 2011 at 7:12 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

An Unforgettable Baptism in Taiwan

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In Tainan

Fr. Jonah Mourtos
November 18, 2009
Fragrance of Asia

This past Friday I went to Tainan, a large city of Taiwan. A Christian of ours urged me to go see a couple. The husband, around 42 years old, undergoes a kidney dialysis every week! The doctor told him he has no chance of living beyond ten years. This is the tenth year.

This Christian happened to meet them somewhere, and gave them the book The Way of a Pilgrim (it was translated by Catholics a while ago and recently republished). It should be noted that this couple were not Christians, and as the majority here they do not have a religion. In their younger years they went to the typical temples of idols as do all the Chinese. Slowly the book inspired them to start praying noetically, and this began to change them. The husband told me it gives him deep peace and calmness.

They had prepared a table for me in the office of their small company. I marvelled at their love. The wife had done everything in her power to bear the burdens of the office in order for her husband to peacefully do his work. They work together, you understand. They have two children.

They also bought a Holy Bible, but they didn’t know where to begin, so they started reading the Acts of the Apostles!

They deeply moved me. Naturally, they were willing for me to read a prayer for the sick, and I wore my epitracheli (stole). In fact, the husband makes sketches out of the stories of the Holy Bible and he explains them to his 2-3 employees during break time! See below the story of Job! I thought it very unbecoming to take pictures of them, but I was touched and took a photo of this one.

I explained to them that God was not playing with the devil, making Job suffer without purpose, but the opposite, showing forth Job as a teacher of angels, men and even demons what it means to love God….

We spoke of noetic prayer. I told them that if they want me to come every one or two weeks to talk, to read from the book together, provided that they would pay me nothing, I would go completely for free, which is something unheard of here, as every pastor takes something. I told them on Saturdays, but the husband does his kidney dialysis then. I await their reply, and I ask that you pray for them, and for the health of the husband, and that at sometime they be baptized. I don’t even know their name. I await their reply and your prayers.


An Unforgettable Baptism

Fr. Jonah Mourtos
February 26, 2011
Fragrance of Asia

Yesterday, Friday, we went to Tainan to baptize a couple. I had written of them in an old post dated November 18, 2009.

A few months ago these blessed people invited me. They felt the need to become Orthodox! I asked them why. They told me they felt like they loved someone and they desire to marry Him. Now is the end of hesitations.

I taught them twice a week through Skype and I visited them often. (See, this is why I write so little as I have no time). In the end we decided for the baptism to take place on a Friday after their work.

They confessed, but I cried. They had no sins! Such rare people.

The husband does kidney dialysis twice a week for the past ten years. It was not possible for them to come to Taipei. Besides, one year ago when we met the doctor told them that the husband didn’t have any life left, but God gave it to Him.

They live by selling photovoltaics. See the photos. In the office reception room they have a Gospel book! How many companies do you know that do this?

We did everything together during the Divine Liturgy, as was the order in the ancient Church:

Dedication
Beginning of Liturgy
Entrance
Baptism-Chrismation
Wedding
Trisagion (“All who have been baptized…”)
Readings for a wedding and baptism
Great Entrance
Holy Communion
Dance of Isaiah around the small table which was the holy altar and holy communion, as in the ancient Church.

I was very moved and afraid because when I took the hand of the husband I felt the plastic tubes he had for veins…how would I do the triple circle procession? The same for the “All who have been baptized….”

Yet it happened and he felt better. Afterwards they had a dinner. The restaurant was called “Eureka” as you can see, but nobody knew why.

We missed the quick train. We returned to Taipei at four in the morning with the bus. Naturally, I will go very frequently to do a Liturgy.

Their names are:

Tien Hen (husband)
Li Tsin (wife)

Hat Tip, with many more pictures: Mystagogy

Written by Stephen

March 5, 2011 at 11:39 am

Latin America: Peoples in Search of Orthodoxy

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Orthodox Children in Cuba

I am not sure exactly when this appeal was written, but I think in January, 2011. It is certainly a very exciting snapshot of what is happening in Latin America right now.

by His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico

Thirteen years ago, when I undertook the (then newly-established) Holy Metropolis of Mexico with only three priests and three mainly Greek-speaking communities, in Mexico, Panama and Venezuela, I would never have expected, let alone conceive the miracle that is unfolding today for our Orthodox Church in Latin America.

We all lived the miracle of Cuba, when Fidel Castro’s government undertook the construction of the Sacred Temple of Saint Nicholas in Havana and officially received Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who officiated the inauguration of that Holy shrine in January of 2004. In the decade that passed, we experienced the propagating of our faith in the states of Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, etc… just as we experienced – and continue to experience – the continuing drama of the people of Haiti, after the catastrophic earthquake of last January. A drama which unfortunately will heal, only after several years have passed.

Greece became acquainted with Christianity and lived its own Pentecost around two thousand years ago, through the Apostle Paul and the other Apostles. Greece is the most blessed country in the world. And this is because – as I point out to our priests – whichever stone you lift, underneath it you will find the relics of a Saint, a Martyr, a holy man, a fighter for the Orthodox faith… We, however, in Latin America are living our Pentecost today. For us – with the exception of the few Greek Orthodox Communities – Orthodoxy has only just arrived in Latin America.

I recall six years ago, when our Ecumenical Patriarch visited Cuba to officiate in the inauguration of the Holy Temple of Saint Nicholas, there were only four Orthodox Cubans, whereas now, more than one thousand Cuban families have been baptized and have embraced Orthodoxy. And every day, there are more – many more – who seek to acquaint themselves with the Faith of our Fathers. Six years ago, with the inauguration of Saint Nicholas’ church, the first Orthodox Community in the land began to function. Now, with the grace of God and the untiring labours of our five priests (one Colombian and four Cuban), some very significant and impressive missionary work is under way in three other cities of this Land. And this, in spite of unfavourable and financially difficult conditions. At this very moment that I am writing, the Hierarchal Commissioner of Cuba, fr. Athenagoras, is in Greece trying to secure vestments and cassocks and chalices for our needs there. Even though the Cubans have given us the exceptional privilege of acquiring our own property (something that is not permitted by their Constitution), unfortunately, there are no funds for us to purchase a suitable building with the necessary thirty-five thousand Euros, to convert it into a Temple for the worshipping needs of the neophytes. We are hoping for God’s grace and are praying for a donor to be found.

When I visited President Fidel Castro seven years ago, to obtain the official invitation with which he was inviting the Ecumenical Patriarch to visit Cuba, I thanked him for that courteous and hospitable gesture of his. I will never forget his response: “No, Your Eminence, the people of Cuba thank you and the Ecumenical Patriarch, for bringing Orthodoxy to our country.”

Cuba, indeed, is “ours”. Haiti is “ours”, Mexico, Costa Rica, Santo Domingo and Colombia, where now, thanks to a lady donor of the Missionary Association “Saint Kosmas the Aetolian”, the first Holy Temple is being erected in the city of Cúcuta of Colombia, in honour of the Supreme Archangels. And now, another miracle: Guatemala….

As in the eras of persecutions, when Christians used to live in catacombs in anticipation of the day they could freely worship the Triadic God, so it is with us here, in all of the countries of Central and South America; for entire decades, innumerable groups of people – who had abandoned the Roman Catholic church – were waiting for the embrace of Orthodoxy. One such large group in Guatemala knocked on the door of our Metropolis several months ago, asking us to accept them in the bosom of the true Church. I didn’t know them. I didn’t even know they existed. And indeed, in this vast region of the twenty states under the jurisdiction of the Holy Metropolis of Mexico it is impossible to know everyone. However, twenty years ago, they had established their own (anti-canonical) Orthodox Church, naturally without knowing full well what they had done, and had endeavoured to survive. They lived incorrectly, in their own particular manner, an “orthodox” worshipping life. They knew and they desired Orthodoxy. They knew that our Church has the true faith – that they had a right to Orthodox teaching and its way of life. They believed that only there would they find the Saviour and Redeemer Christ. So, for twenty years. they walked along a path with the hope that they would eventually reach the truth. Knowing also that it was imperative to commemorate a Bishop in all of their liturgies, during the last ten years they would commemorate our Ecumenical Patriarch.

New Orthodox Church in Guatemala

Twenty years later came the “fullness of time”. After searching, they learnt a few months ago that in Mexico there is a canonical Metropolitan and a Metropolis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. They found me, and they knocked on my door, asking me to receive them. I sent two priests to go and meet them so that we could determine who they are and if their request is serious and valid. I was stunned. It was a “group” of more than 500.000 people, with 338 churches and chapels, most of whom were natives of Guatemala – and in fact of the ancient race of Mayans! They live in the mountains and the vast plains of the land and even in the southern cities of Mexico. I crossed myself and gave thanks to the Holy Mother for that miracle. I fully understood now what the great byzantinologist and historian of the previous century – Steven Runciman – meant, when he wrote that “the third millennium belongs to Orthodoxy”. Now I also understand the words of a noble Mexican, a University Professor and a faithful member of our Church, when he said to me: “Your Eminence, Orthodoxy is like a shoe that fits us Latin Americans, provided you know how to put it on us.”

So I accepted that group and as a first step, I ordained the two leaders of the group. Now begins the long road of catechism for the hundreds of thousands of those people. It will require several years and a lot of hard work – but a blessed work – to teach those new faithful of ours what the Orthodox way of life involves, and how each of us experiences his own path towards Calgary, which leads to one’s personal Resurrection. By training suitable indigenous clergymen, they will learn to live the worshipful life of the Orthodox Church and, after being baptized and receiving Holy Chrismation, to receive the Immaculate and Sacred Mysteries (Sacraments) – the Body and Blood of our Lord and Redeemer Christ.

You must realize however, that for all this project that is now unfolding before us, we need your help. We need the necessary financial means to send our own priests to Guatemala, to instruct the catechist teachers there how to catechize the faithful. The financial means are necessary, in order to print hundreds of thousands of catechist texts, for children and for adults. In the meantime, many of those people are illiterate. Money is also needed, to prepare videotapes in Spanish, and even in the local dialect of the Mayans, so that they might familiarize themselves with the Divine Liturgy, the Baptism, the Chrismation and all the Services of our Church.

Can you imagine what this means for Orthodoxy? And this is just the beginning. The struggle has only just begun. We truly “own” Latin America. The third millennium truly belongs to Orthodoxy. With the meagre means at our disposal, but with the wide-open, vast and endless Grace and presence of the Holy Spirit, we will continue with our endeavours.

We do however ask for your support. As I outlined above, we need a donation of thirty-five thousand Euros for the purchase of the property in Cuba, where we will establish a Temple and areas for the congregating and the catechizing of the faithful. We will also need another donation of twenty-five thousand Euros, in order to begin catechizing the new faithful of Guatemala: to print catechism texts, prepare videotapes of Divine Services and to send suitable priests of ours to that Land, in order to undertake this very important work.

It is our belief that the Missionary Association “Saint Kosmas of Aetolia”, which has been the main support of our labours and our endeavours all these years, as well as all you pious donors and the members of the Association, will support us in this new venture that God has placed before us.

The Lord God lives, for all eternity!

With wishes and infinite thanks
† Athenagoras of Mexico

Hat Tip: Mystagogy Click here also for more pictures.

Written by Stephen

February 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Fiji and New Zealand: Baptisms, Feasts, Monastery

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Resurrected from my files, at long last some news from Fiji and New Zealand. Apologies for the delay.

December 2009 – A Historical Day In Fiji

Wednesday the 16th December 2009, the feast day of Saint Porphyrios of Aigaiou, Theophane of Basilissa and Medestos Patriarch of Jerusalem. Eight o’clock in the morning. T he contractor and his team are taking the blessing and are beginning to measure and put the indicator markers for the foundation so as to follow the design of the Church of Saint Paraskevi in the yard of the Missionary Center in Sambeto, Nandi. The day before yesterday the Cyclone passed with its frightful momentum and its incessant rains which transformed all the surrounding meadows into lakes, harassing the trees and animals and forcing the birds to hide in their dens, carrying away some men to death and leaving many areas for many days in darkness due to the loss of electrical power. Now, however, a boundless calm is spread everywhere. The clear-blue sky and the warm sun remind man, whose life returns to its normal rhythm, of the first days after the flood of Noah. The yards and surrounding trees are full of birds which fly joyfully and please their listeners with their sweet chirping. Today is very beautiful and joyful. Nothing is by accident. The first Orthodox Church in Fiji is founded in the heart of the Pacific Ocean. The elements of nature participate in their own way with our own joy, so that with much gratitude we thank and glorify our all-powerful and gift-giving God, honouring and magnifying as well His holy martyr Paraskevi, whose name and joy will from today be imprinted beautifully on this place of retreat. Archbishop of New Zealand, † Amfilochios

Newly Baptized in the Fiji Islands

Four young Fijian girls adopted the Orthodox faith and were baptized at the Missionary Center of the Holy Metropolis of New Zealand in Fiji.

His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilochios assisted Archimandrite Fr. Christodoulos and the Priest Father Bartholomew in completing the Baptisms.

The Newly-illumined received the names Maria, Anastasia and Sophronia. May the holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified.

One Soul-Stirring Experience (Fiji)

Everything seemed fine from the moment when we entered the catamaran and, leaving behind us the port of Nandi, we began to approach one after another beautiful little islands with pure-white beaches and tropical vegetation. Until, that is, we arrived at Yasawa, Ira Ira, the island of our newly-illumined sister Sophronia.

The boat was full of passengers, white tourists and brown natives, the former going to spend summer vacations the latter returning with supplies from Nandi. The Captain and crew, all natives, were completely organized and very well mannered. We looked admiringly at every island with its picturesque barges dancing upon the waves as they came alongside the boat in order to pick up and transport passengers and their baggage.

I was thinking that this was the method on the smaller islands and that for our own larger island, just as it appeared on the brochure, there would be some platform for the boat to draw alongside. Contrary to my expectation, when we arrived we saw that here as well the barges would come and take passengers and baggage and then depart quickly in the same way. They were going to Yasawa, Ira Ira.

We disembarked into one of these barges following the same procedure as the preceding boats. Our own boat was more slow-moving and therefore we couldn’t see the other boats which had passed around the cape. We were eight people inside the boat. The further we progressed the more I was thinking the Pacific Ocean was showing us its true colours. The wind began to blow with force and the waves of the sea were swelling dangerously and were literally roaring as they relentlessly hit up against the side of our boat splashing us with their salty contents. Now, however, we saw that we were passing one cape after another and the port was nowhere to be seen; we began to worry.

From the very salty water our eyes were burning unbearably and I could not see in front of me, perhaps from my little experience I would have said something to the boatman in order to assist him. He himself could not have had clear vision since he was often spreading his hand in order to take the water from his eyes.

By now we were in the open sea which necessarily we should have had to pass in order to arrive at the opposite shore where I was suspecting the port and the village of our destination would be. I began to get uneasy. The only refuge in similar circumstances is prayer. I chanted secretly the Paraklesis of our Panaghia believing that she would not leave us unprotected. “To whom else shall I flee o Pure one? And to whom else shall I run for help and be saved? Where shall I go, and where shall I find a safe retreat?” (Words from the Great Paraklesis to the Most Holy Virgin)

We approached with much effort the beach while not seeing either a port or a village. We would have to pass many more capes in order to hear from Presbytera Lydia that behind the next cape was the village. However, it was not the next cape, but rather the one after the next. After four hours struggling with the waves we finally arrived at the end of our trip. We disembarked from the boat half-swimming because there was no platform or plank, only one pure-white beach which was covered with trees providing a deep-shade.

This is the village of our newly-illumined Sophronia. I consider how for her joy and the joy of her family and her three-hundred fellow villagers who welcomed us with special joy and honour and offered us hospitality that the weariness of our arduous journey was worth it. Orthodoxy imprinted its footprint here on this remote island of the Pacific.

May the name of the Lord be glorified.

March 2010 – News from the Monastery (New Zealand)

The last several weeks have seen, with the help and grace of God, the construction of the churches of the Holy Archangels and Saint Basileios in the Monastery of our Holy Metropolis.

Recently the frame has been finished and we are awaiting now the weatherboard, the roof, electrical installation and the plumbing.
Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of all those who evolved we expect to celebrate the Divine Mysteries inside our newly erected churches in the next two months.

God willing another spring of life and renewal is being planted, by the right hand of our good God, in New Zealand.

December 2009 – The Baptism of an Orthodox Maori (New Zealand)

“Today let companies of High Priests in spirit leap for joy, as with us they honour your memory, venerable Hierarch Chrysostom, illuminary of the Church.“

We thank the Triune God for the limitless gifts which he offers to us every day. One such gift was received on this day by as many of us who met inside the Holy Parish of Saint Demetrios in the city of Hastings.

Today the first Orthodox Maori was baptized. Archimandrite Father Christodoulos and Hieromonk Ioakeim completed first the holy mystery of baptism of the Maori—Micheal, and later the holy mystery of marriage for Michael and his Greek wife Ephigenia.

Later in the evening our joy was completed with the baptism of their three children: Stephanos, Sophia and Athanasios.
We welcome our newly baptized brothers into the Great Church of Christ, may His holy name be glorified.

More videos from New Zealand and Fiji can be found on this channel on youtube.

Source: EP Archdiocese of New Zealand

Written by Stephen

May 17, 2010 at 9:08 pm