A St. Nicholas Melbourne Publication
Issue #39 August 2003
Kontakion of the Transfiguration: When you were transfigured on the mountain, O Christ our God, your disciples beheld your glory, so far as they were able, so that when they should see You crucified they might know that your suffering was voluntary, and might declare to all the world that You are in truth the Radiance of the Father.
Switch on the light in order to see.
“You are the light of the world” “Let your light so shine before man that they may see your good work and glorify your Father in Heaven”. “I did not come to destroy but to fulfil ” (Matt 5 : 14, 16 - 17)
We hear these most important words from the Gospel reading according to St Matthew on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers who met in Nicea. Jesus said these words to His disciples knowing that their ministry must shine and the message of salvation must reach the whole universe. This message is for every true Christian who follows in the footstep of the apostles. The Holy Nicene Fathers were like other Holy Fathers who met at different times in various places and guided by the Holy Spirit confirmed to us the true faith according to the teaching of Christ and His apostles.
When we hear Jesus Himself saying to His disciples you are the light of the world we cannot help but discern two things: The blessing that He conferred upon them and the invitation to imitate him by being Christ like. Acc to St John Jesus said: I am the light of the world. So in reality what Jesus said to his disciples two thousands years ago, He is saying it to us today if we want to follow Him. He demands nothing less than to become like Him sharing in His uncreated energy. However Jesus does not ask us to produce our own light ,rather we must shine with the reflection of His light.
As we all know a light is first and foremost something which is meant to be seen, we do not light a light and hide it, if we do that it becomes meaningless. In another word Christianity is to be seen, the light of Christ must be seen in order to be meaningful and effective. Christianity whose effects stop at the Church door is no use to anyone. A person was entering the Church as the faithful were leaving, so he asked if the service had finished and someone told him: well according to father Nectarios it is just started as we are leaving now. A Christian faithful should be as much as Christian in the church as outside it. Whatever a Christian is doing must bear in mind Jesus teachings and ordinances and apply them as befit. In so doing the faithful becomes the true light for others to see and glorify God, for others to see and be guided to the truth through His light. A light is something to clear the way, that is to say a Christian must of necessity be an example, and that is very important. The world needs people overflowing with goodness in order for others to see, be encouraged and follow. About two years ago at the Victorian Council of Churches we had Miss Beth Ferris at one of our Executive meetings. Miss Ferris was visiting Australia, she was the General secretary at the World Council of Churches on the commission of refugees and asylum seekers . Miss Ferris asked us as a body of Churches in Australia to talk with the Government to better their policies concerning refugees and asylum seekers . She justified her request by saying it would be good for Australia to set an example, because other countries will follow.
So it is with us as Christians, it is our duty out of love to take a stand, set an example, encourage others and support the weak in order to see the light of Christ and follow. Exactly like the Holy Fathers who stood up to the various heresies and confirmed the true teaching the true Orthodox faith. However we must always be conscious that our good deeds are done not in order to bring attention to ourselves rather to our Father in heaven whom we seek to glorify at all times. We must never think of what we have done but of what God has enabled us to do.
Jesus said: “I did not come to destroy the law or the prophets, I did not come to destroy but to fulfil” By His incarnation Jesus fulfilled the prophets for they prophesied about Him. Jesus took flesh and became men to bring out the real meaning of the law unto salvation, and the real meaning of the law is the two great commandments that He gave, love the Lord your God and your Neighbour as yourself. Love one another as I have loved you. If we look at the ten commandments we discern that they are about revering God and respecting others. We must revere God, respect our parents, respect someone else’s property so we don’t steal, respect the truth so we don’t lie, respect the life of others so we don’t kill and so on and so forth. Having applied all the above in our lives we give to God the reverence which is due to Him, and we give men the respect which is their due.
In conclusion there is always a continuation between the past and the present because the present grows out of the past. If we instigate a quarrel between the past and the present we will have no future. Out of the past, out of the law of God Jesus has set for us the law of love and made it even more perfect by asking us to love one another as He loved us in a sacrificial way. This supreme love is the corner stone of our life and the only way to eternity. As faithful we must pray and hope that the light which is never taken over by night will shine upon all of us, in order to lead the way of salvation for others to see and glorify God. I would like to conclude by quoting St Augustine who said: “Love God and do what you like”.
By Fr Nabil
An Inspiration from a Spiritual Father
Rev. Dr. Alexander Schmemann
(1921 - 1983)
For young people of my generation who grew up in Russia during the period of (enlightened socialism), the name of Fr Alexander Schmemann first came to us over the waves in the form of Russian programmes transmitted by the American radio station, “Liberty”. This was a station, which was forbidden by the powers of the Soviet Union. But, through the noise of the radio jamming we greedily listened to his words on Christ, on the Church, on Orthodoxy. The most amazing and convincing thing was that these were words of our contemporary, a person of the 20th century who wholeheartedly identified with all the ups and downs of our time. He identified with the tragedy of many millions leaving the church and rejoiced at the new shoots of spiritual life, which are now evident and which plant hope in all of us.
Later, books managed to filter through to us. We were then able to fully evaluate the calibre of this individual and his theological gifts. This is how my generation learnt that Fr Alexander was the son of a Russian officer who after the revolution in Russia was forced to flee and who settled into the ‘Emigre’ community in Paris. This is where Alexander Schmemann grew up and where he was actively involved in the Russian Christian student movement in France. It is here that he completed study at the Paris Theological institute and the faculty of philology at the Sorbonne. It was in Paris where his academic and teaching work began that his first books were written.
In 1951, Fr Alexander, together with his family accepted an invitation to come to America to work in the St Vladimir’s Theological Seminary. Under the guidance of Fr George Florovsky following the Second World War, this Seminary was becoming one of the largest Orthodox learning centres in the New World. In the second half of the 20th century American Orthodoxy was going through a new phase of its development and had to decide whether to remain the faith of only the Greeks, Russians, Ukrainians, Serbs, Rumanians, the people of the near east. Or, with the adoption of English, to take up the option to take its place in the international, worldwide sphere. Within the Orthodox diaspora the serious question of the unification of Orthodox Churches into one independent and autonomous Orthodox Church was raised. Fr Alexander, together with Metropolitan Irinei and Fr John Meyendorff devoted a significant part of his life in America to the establishment of the Autonomous Orthodox Church of America. In 1970 the American Autocephalous Orthodox Church was recognized by the Moscow Patriarchate. It fell to the St Vladimir’s Theological Seminary, the dean of which Fr Alexander became in 1962, to help the new Orthodox Church. Over the years the seminary became a large theological center with a rich library and orderly services. A new type of priest emerged: educated, full of initiative, one whose aim was to unite parish life around the Eucharist. In his academic life Fr Alexander concentrated primarily on studying liturgical theology. His aim was firstly to open before the contemporary person all the depth and richness of the liturgical inheritance from the past, our understanding of which was often incorrect or one sided. The books, ‘Introduction to Liturgical Theology’, ‘With Water and Spirit’, ‘Great Lent’ and ‘For the Life of the World’, were dedicated to this aim.
The book on the Eucharist was the final work of Fr Alexander and became the book of his life, his academic and pastoral experience. In his approach to the Liturgy, Fr Alexander achieved that, which restorers do with the icon. He cleaned off the soot and layers of the centuries that do not allow us to understand the fundamental meaning of the ‘Mystery of Mysteries.’
Fr Alexander passed away on the 13th December 1983 on the Feast of St Herman of Alaska.
Fr Alexander will always remain in our memory as a theologian, a writer, preacher, clever conversationalist, ‘a Russian European’ and ‘a European American’. However, above all he will be remembered as a priest who, with a burning Christian heart, gave his all to preach the Word of God, who was able to light the hearts of hundreds of souls on their journey to Christ and to His Kingdom.
From Fr Igor
Filianovsky (Translated by Marina
To ‘Go with the Flow’ or ‘Stand against the Tide?’
Those of us who were reared in the innocent
days of ‘Just William’ may well
be tempted to regard the current craze for ‘Harry Potter’ as just another rewrite in terms of children’s fiction. But, ‘by their fruits you shall know them’(Matt 7:16), how is it that this particular series of books is cited as being instrumental in the popularisation of witchcraft? How is it that the Pagan Federation of England is now having to extend its facilities for dealing with young people? This society acknowledges that, as well as occult TV, the Harry Potter books are catalysts accounting for an increase in interest in witchcraft.
Their author J.K. Rowling, when asked on a radio talk back programme whether she was herself a member of the ‘Craft” (i.e., Wicca) answered ‘No.’ The caller, a male magician, was surprised and replied, ‘You’ve done your homework quite well.’ And this is a fact. Persons researching Rowling’s work have been able to demonstrate the connections. Harry attends a School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: the curriculum offered closely resembles the training programme of the contemporary occult society ‘Ordo Anno Mundi.’
Rowling incorporates known occult characters into her work: Nicholas Flamel of the thirteenth century, Adalbert , an eighth century archbishop of Canterbury convicted of sorcery, and Paracelsus, the Swiss alchemist. It doesn’t take much imagination to detect under the pseudonym ‘Cassandra Vlabatsky’ the notorious Helena P. Blavatsky, nineteenth century founder of the Theosophical Society, the purpose of which was ‘to oppose the materialism of science and every form of dogmatic theology, especially the Christian, which the Chiefs of the Society regard as particularly pernicious.’
Concern is being expressed that, as Rowling’s books ‘so closely mirror contemporary occult activity ...they serve as a natural bridge for young people into real witchcraft.’ Orthodox Christians are being alerted to the stand which they should take in this real manifestation of spiritual warfare. If we sit quiet in this one we are permitting an evil manipulation of our young people, this begins with condoned disobedience and moves in misuse of the imagination.
This article is taken from a more extended presentation by Monk Innocent in ‘The Orthodox Word’ Issue 220 of 2001. Copies of the full article are available from the Editor on request.
by Fr Ted Doncaster
No! This is not an article about an aspect of Christian belief that the western part of the world may have wandered into, but a short account of the geographical wanderings of an Orthodox Priest from the Western third of Australia. Yes, it is THAT big!
How thankful this Priest is for the annual Symposium as it gives him an opportunity to meet with Metropolitan Paul and his fellow Priests - the nearest of whom is 2,000 kilometres away. This sharing of ideas, hopes and challenges is as important as the various lectures that are given and, above all, the joy of being able to worship together at the Divine Liturgy and the other services. For some of us this is the one time in the year when there are other Priests present with whom to share the greetings and that is a lovely thing, believe me. We gathered from New Zealand and from Brisbane right round to Perth.
The Symposium was held in S. George's Parish in Thombury, a suburb of Melbourne, and top marks to Fr George Nasr and Fr Dimitri Baroudi and all who assisted them in the preparations and the resulting efficient manner in which the events were carried out. The accommodation was provided at S. George's Motel and this was very pleasant. Neighbouring parishes took turns in providing the evening meals thus affording opportunities of meeting many of the faithful. Visits were paid to S. Anna's Monastery, where a Memorial was made for the recently reposed Fr Columba, and also to S. Nicholas Church in East Melbourne where Vespers were held one evening.
Among subjects covered in the various lectures were preaching and sermon preparation, ecumenical relationships, youth work, the spiritual life of the clergy, the Holy Mysteries of the church, Orthodoxy in Australia, and the general physical health of the clergy. The visiting lecturers included Dr Anthony Cumming, Fr Pedros of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Professor Robert Gribben of the Uniting Church, Riasohpor Virginia of S. Anna's Monastery and Dr Afif Hadj.
Praise God for the inspiration He has given us all through Metropolitan Paul's institution of the annual Symposium.
The writer had the added joy of attending the Divine Liturgy on several Sundays at S. Nicholas East Melbourne and also at S. Elias Church in Adelaide. In the latter city an evening was held for the youth of the parish and some very helpful discussions took place. He and Khouriyeh Sue are very grateful for the kind hospitality accorded them on these visits and for the joy of seeing old friends again.
Two special things have happened in the West so far this year: when Sue Waters was Chrismated in Perth in April one of the life-long members of the Antiochian Orthodox Church made the remark that he had never witnessed a full Chrismation service before - simply because all were Baptised and Chrismated as infants "back home". How wonderful a thing it is that God is calling adults to commit themselves to Orthodoxy in Australia! On 6th July Rita Maria Dorkhom became the first baby to be Baptised in the Bunbury Church and this was the cause of much rejoicing. As from the beginning of July the two congregations are being administered as two separate entities and Bunbury is now under the patronage of S. Helen while the Perth Church retains the patronage of S. Anthony the Great. Please keep us all in your prayers as we do you.
St Marina of Antioch
Marina, or Margaret as she is known in the West, was born in third century Pisidian, Antioch. Her mother died shortly after giving birth, which led her father, a pagan priest, to place her in the care of a Christian woman who lived in a suburb of the city.
When he learned that his little girl had been brought up to believe in the Lord Jesus and even baptised, Marina's father was saddened by the news. He tried to convince her to turn away from her faith, but it was all in vain. Fearing for his standing as a priest of the pagan gods, he returned her to the lady that had raised her since she was a babe.
The emperors Diocletian and Maximian declared a persecution on the Christians in their realm, and Olymbrus, an imperial deputy, roamed the suburbs of Antioch, looking for and capturing those who believed in Christ. When passing the area where Marina was minding sheep with her virtuous friends, he admired the young woman's beauty. He sent asking for her, but she declared that she belonged to her Saviour.
Olymbrus persisted in his attempts to convince Marina to marry him. Finally, he resorted to threats, hoping that this would sway her, but she replied boldly: "know that I do not submit to the orders of kings, and do not fear your threats. You have authority to kill me, to tear my body, to burn me alive, and to throw me to beasts, but you cannot separate me from the love of Christ Jesus, my Lord and my God."
Olymbrus ordered that she be lashed, which stirred those present with pity. They implored her to submit to the ruler's wishes, and spare herself further pain. But she said to them: "Leave me, do not break my heart or discourage me. If you knew the light of truth you would encourage me, even submit with joy to the same torture for the name of the Lord Jesus."
Marina was then put in prison. There, the devil appeared to her in the form of a serpent. Marina prayed "O Lord, You who save your children from all dangers, who destroyed by Your cross the arrogance of the enemy, come to my help, say to my soul 'I am your salvation'. For You said 'you will trample on serpents, scorpions and lions'." Thus, with her prayers, she conquered the devil, who left fleeing from her faith. The prison was then filled with light, and she heard the voice of her saviour strengthening her and filling her with joy.
The next day, the ruler ordered her to be burned, and thrown in boiling water, but she emerged unharmed. Many of those present came to believe, marvelling at the power that God had shown through the young Marina. This filled Olymbrus with fury. He ordered the beheading of all who believed, and that Marina be executed in the same fashion, only outside of the city, lest another miracle take place leading to more conversions. Thus, Marina surrendered her life as a martyr, bearing witness to the name of her beloved Christ. So far did Marina's fame spread, that Muslims as well as Christians came to revere her.
O Great Martyr Marina, pray to Christ God to grant forgiveness of sins to our souls.
Adapted from: M. Assaf, the Synaxarion, Vol. 2, Paulist Press, Lebanon. All quotes are translated from the Arabic and come from this source.
The above article is submitted to us by Ziad Baroudi husband of Terri and proud father of young Marina who is, as I write, celebrating her first name day.
We are always delighted to see the whole family in Church each Sunday with Ziad at work at the Choir desk, and Terri caring for the baby and assisting as possible with the Choir. Little Marina is a healthy and bright child and a regular communicant. >From time to time we see her proud Grandfather, Fr Dimitri, lovingly aware of her presence and maybe giving the incense an extra swing in her direction. Praise God for his gifts and for his great mercy.
While on the subject of Feast Days, we may mention that our Monastery of St Anna will be celebrating its Feast Day with a Liturgy for July 25th. Some of our young people came out recently and did some splendid work in the grounds - cutting and setting new edging for the garden beds. Their work has attracted several appreciative comments. Some of them will be will be chanting for us in the Choir for our Feast Day.
Congratulations to our Orthodox Students Timothy and Justin for their good results in first semester study. We are proud of them.
Fr Thomas Hopko will be visiting Australia during September and October. Enquiries concerning his schedule should be directed to Fr John Vesic.
Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son (2 John 9)
In the life of the United Faculty of Theology here in Melbourne there is currently the earnest hope for the furtherance and development of a genuine Orthodox participation in the Faculty. As one who had come from a highly traditionalist Orthodox Seminary in the United States, I was naturally quite unsure as to what to expect of the Faculty and what it in turn would expect of me. What I have found, and can heartily vouch for, is the care for academic excellence and for the genuine intellectual development of the person thus engaged upon a course of study within the U.F.T.
It thus seems to me that we as Orthodox are called to reflect on the precise nature of our possible involvement in the academic presentation of the Orthodox faith here in the city of Melbourne. This to me entails a sense of witness and confession, as we further and enable knowledge of the Orthodox Church and her sacred Tradition within this context of study. To do this we require vision, both in regard to our own personal witness to the Truth and that of the Church to which we properly belong. In a large part our own distinctive approach now receives a genuine enthusiasm from the various church bodies which compose our faculty. The Patristic approach to the scriptures and the Tradition of the Church is within itself the overarching traditional and exegetical method by which the life of the Orthodox Church has been nourished from age to age, guided and guarded by the Holy Spirit. Within the theological task the Orthodox have a very important role to play, for at the present there is a very happy revival of interest in the theology and Biblical exegesis of the ancient fathers of the Church of international dimensions. This is significant for us here at the U.F.T.
This is an opportunity for us, because we Orthodox are indeed the Church to which the fathers historically belong, they are the organs expressing our tradition, they are the definitive rule of the nature of our belief, they are the instruments wherewith the Holy Church has defined herself in the historical living out of her life in the malaise of earthly life and struggle. This deposit of faith as expressed in the fathers is the vital component of what we term Holy Tradition. This is our Tradition, the regula veritatis (rule of faith) which unites us in a single body which we know as the Orthodox Church. This is the vision which the Holy Church applies to all of her theologising, prayer and worship as the embodiment of the Sacred Tradition within the matrix of modernity and the pluralistic reductionism associated therewith.
The time in which we all live is a time of widespread religious upheaval and discontent. Indeed it would be hard to exaggerate the uncertainty of belief throughout the various classes of contemporary society. This is in part due to the fact that our faculty of criticism is often estranged from our constructive and creative faculties. In a period of diffused education the materials of criticism and analysis, as presented to all sorts of minds, in fact operate to overturn positive beliefs without leading on to any reconstruction. It was this that I most feared in joining a modern university faculty, devoted to the theological science. While we cannot reasonably deny that the permanent revelation of religious truth in every period is mixed within the contextuality including the essential and the unessential, (that which is not always of a permanent and universal character), there are those who seem to think that every clever new criticism is designed to triumph over the established nature of Religious Truth. Let us not ignore the fact that eventually the conservative tendencies of the human mind, and the recuperative power of Truth and the verity of ancient institutions, have disappointed revolutionaries in every period of human history. In this light I believe we behold such power in the patristic interest which grows daily within the academy, and which begins to shape new paths of academic enquiry.
In this it can be demonstrated that the role of Orthodoxy in shaping and in forming new paths and directions of theological enquiry are always done in a way that reflects the intuitions and insights of the tradition to which we belong, enshrined within that most ancient of institutions; the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church. We have no negligible or small part to play in this genuine intellectual development and exposition, yet “the harvest is great and the workers are few.” We have a magnum opus before us, which with the aid of God, could yield surprising results. Should any who read this article wish to investigate the possibility of taking up theological study within the U.F.T. please be assured of the genuine welcome and appreciation which the faulty extends to us as Orthodox. Any correspondence concerning the same can be sent to the Theological Students Association, on firstname.lastname@example.org, or directly to me on email@example.com, or alternatively ask Sr. Virginia Hutchinson at St Nicholas for information concerning the Theological Faculty. Any inquiries will be most welcome. From Justin McDonnell
Issue for Nov. 2003 : deadline for written contributions Oct. 15th. Please send them to
Riasaphor Virginia. 14, Mihil Street, Preston, Vic. 3072. Tel. & Fax. 03 9484 2238.
We thank Archimandrite Nabil for his assistance.