A St. Nicholas Melbourne Publication
Issue #32 February 2002
The Meeting of Our Lord
Christ meets with His people.
Our Lord, who is brought to the temple by His mother and St. Joseph, meets His chosen people in the persons of Simeon the Elder and Ann the Prophetess.
Many are Called, but Few are Chosen.
As we know Jesus used to use various examples in order to get his message of salvation across to His hearers. Here we consider one very well-known parable about ‘Entering the Kingdom,’ which is known as the Parable of the royal Wedding Feast. The King prepared a feast for the occasion of His Son’s marriage. No doubt the wedding we are talking about is different from any wedding we know. It is a heavenly one not an earthly one. God the Father is the Host, His Son our Lord Jesus Christ is the Groom and the bride is the Church, the bride is us the faithful, in another word the bride is every pure soul that preserves herself spotless in order to receive Christ as her Groom.
As history tells us, God never ceased calling His people, Israel, to repentance and righteousness. He has spoken to them at various times through the mouth of His prophets but they refused His calling. They had their own interest, and their own things to do, some of them went to their farms, some others went about their business, even some others scornfully killed the messengers. So, God’s own people refused His offer. And His offer was everlasting life in His Kingdom which ha been offered freely with love and forgiveness through the saving work of Christ His only Son who is the Groom Himself.
Jesus said: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate’(Matt.23:37-38). In this parable that is exactly what happened, the king was furious, he sent out his armies and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. All of that came in reality upon Jerusalem in the year 70 AD at the hand of the Romans. And since then the Jewish nation was scattered abroad and was left homeless without an country of their own.
Now the question is: Where do we fit in all of the above? How do we perceive the message of God in order to attend to this Divine Wedding.
‘When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons’ (Gal.4:4-5). As sons and inheritors of His Kingdom, the call to the wedding is the call of God to His beloved children, it is the call of salvation to all humanity. Jesus is calling us every day, it is an open invitation, it is a different kind of invitation, it calls us from darkness into light, from death into life, it calls us into repentance unto righteousness - unfortunately many of us refuse the invitation to such a wedding.
The question is Why?
Because to attend this wedding you have to have a different kind of garment: the garment of love and sacrifice, the garment of repentance and righteousness. To get this garment one must tread the narrow way, and that is the problem. We like everything easy, to make the effort requires faith and commitment. However, in order to be encouraged we have to discern that, the wedding itself is not as important as the food which will be offered. This is nothing less than the groom Himself - Christ Himself, the bread that came down from heaven in order for us to have life and to have it abundantly.
In order for us to attend and be part of God’s plan of salvation we must have our faith crowned with virtues and good works - we must listen to the divine calling and attend to the wedding making sure that we wear the proper garment which befits the occasion. We must keep it clean, full of the grace and virtue which we receive at our baptism. In so doing we do God’s commandments - St John tells us: ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates’ (Rev.22:14). You see if we keep His commandments, we worthily become His children, rightfully inheriting the tree of life and therefore we may enter into His kingdom through the gates wearing the proper garment - and when the King comes to inspect His guests, He will not ask us how we came in.
We must always remember that Jesus was lifted up naked on the Cross in order for us to be clothed with this garment, the garment of salvation - in order for us to be among those who are called and chosen. Many are called, many are Christian in theory but not in practice and unless we practice our Christianity, unless we live it, we will not be among those chosen. Rather we will be among those whom the King orders His servants to bind hand and foot in order to cast them into outer darkness.
In conclusion we may confidently say that Christianity is a living faith manifested through good deeds, piety, righteousness, justice, love and goodness. It should be rightly conceived and rightly applied in practice, preparing the garment of the soul, through which we unite with Him as a bride unites with her bridegroom producing fruit with Him in the way of moral perfection - inheriting with Him ever-lasting life in His Kingdom.
We need to take Jesus’ call for repentance and a life of service seriously. We have been called, will we be among the chosen or do we choose to live our life in darkness?
We ask You, O King, not to let us stand speechless before You. Make our life a worthy response to your invitation to the Kingdom.
From Fr Nabil.
Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand
Pastor Fr John Vesic ph 0411 166 082 Divine Liturgy - Sundays 10am
Confession – One Friday per Month ; Vespers Fridays 6:30pm Church School and Bible study for parents– Fridays 5:15-6pm
Youth fellowship – 7:30pm
Welcome to this newly established Church
AN EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA WORSHIPING IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
Parish Council President’s Address
Brothers and sisters believe me I say it and truly mean it.
First of all, I believe that, today is a historical day in this big city, it is for me a historical day in many ways. The starting of this humble but faithful orthodox parish using only the English language, as the main tool to pray to His Almighty which is the language of this country. This tool will allow us to spread the good news of salvation to every one. Basically we are following what happened on Pentecost when the disciples started talking in many languages in order to spread the word of the Lord’s resurrection and salvation to all nations in their own language.
Our very new and exciting parish comprises Australian faithful with backgrounds from the Middle East, Serbia, Greece, Macedonia and the United Kingdom.
With all trust in God, we hope this parish will be the salt and the light as the Lord said according to St Matthew 5: 13-16:
Secondly, I thank God for the privilege of serving His body, and the love and trust given to me through, Father John and the council members by choosing me, the foremost of sinners to be serving God. I believe that God wants to correct me and so has blessed me with this opportunity to serve His body in this way on earth.
I have been asked to give a brief talk on how we are going to organize the parish of Sts. Michael & Gabriel. I could not find a better description than that from the early church as written in the scripture: Acts 2: 42-45 and Acts 4: 32-35.
As you can see we are one and the main reason for our existence is to pray, break bread, and bear witness to the Lord Jesus. So every one here including the council members have the opportunity to choose the most needed thing. We see this when Jesus admonishes Martha; “Martha, Martha, You are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
And again, in Matthew 6: 33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Jesus advises us to choose His word above all.
Accordingly, we believe that, in order for this parish to be the body of Christ and run as I described from the scripture we must not worry about our personal budgets. All parishioners must take an active part in their parish and are encouraged to commit to the pledging system. Frankly speaking, there are many way to make money ranging from passing the plate in the middle of the liturgical services to having parties and running raffles. On the other hand, there is the simple way of pledging an affordable amount each week to the running of the parish. You will notice that a collection plate will not be passed at all. A donation box however, is available for visitors should they wish to contribute. We must encourage everyone to live to the Lord, and in this way show that we have a fruitful faith. See Saint James in his epistle at 2: 14,18,20 and 26
Finally, I would like to reiterate that we are all one body. You could liken it to all of us being in one boat, with each person being responsible for what happens to the boat. This boat must always be rowing towards Christ our God. To understand this analogy more clearly, we must picture that Father John is our navigator with his hand on the rudder always directing us towards the path of Christ. The parish council represent the drummer coordinating the rhythm for all parishioners to row in. You, the parishioners need to empower us to move forward so that we will perform to our best and not lose our destination. You are the blood and soul of this parish and we look forward to your prayers and to the continuation of your heartfelt support.
From Michael Ziadeh
When I undertook the St. Paul’s Course I knew that it was the best thing that I could do for myself and for the Church. The Course is structured very well. It is built on a solid foundation, which not many courses offer. I personally found the course interesting and worth studying because it contains valuable information that every faithful member of the Church should know about.
The first topic that is discussed and clearly explained in the first Semester of the course is the question: what is the Orthodox religion? This gives a clear definition of what Orthodoxy is all about. Orthodoxy treasures the various cultures of its people, but it is not bound to any particular culture or people. The Orthodox Church welcomes all! The second topic is the History of the Church. Every faithful member of the Church should know the history of the Church.
The third last topic is an Introduction to Liturgical Theology. We the faithful should hunger to know the theology behind the ‘rubrics,’ the rules of the Church and to know what is done in the worship of the Church. It is evident that without an elucidation of the historical growth of worship there could be no true knowledge and without this could be no thought of true comprehension or explanation.
All in all, I believe that every faithful Christian should try as much as he or she can to arm him or herself with all the theological knowledge that they can obtain, for it is only through our theological beliefs that we can protect ourselves from the Evil One.
I want to thank the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for sending us our Metropolitan Archbishop Paul Saliba to be our spiritual Shepherd. I would like to thank His Eminence for allowing me to enrol and study this wonderful and exciting course that he has established.
Jack Maalouf, 18years.Melbourne.
First year St. Paul’s Theology Student.
As a young Antiochian, I found St Paul’s Course of study in Orthodox theology relevant in all aspects of my life. The two subjects held were Church History and Liturgical theology.
The study on Church History showed the development of the Christian faith from the Apostolic times, unto the 20th century. We covered a lot of major events such as the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the schism, and the crusades. It also involved comparing the Orthodox faith with other Christian denominations. Church history answered many questions I had about Orthodoxy such as how our Church survived the centuries of conflict, the reasons behind the separation of the Christian church, and how Orthodoxy legitimately claim to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Liturgical theology was a very useful and practical study as we learnt the symbolism and meaning behind Orthodox worship and its origins. I could now fully appreciate, and be an active participant in the Liturgy, and on studying Orthodox worship I know understand the importance of performing the Liturgy the way we do.
The course also helped point out how much I did not know about my faith, and I look forward, God willing, to the coming courses to be held.
From Noura Cheded Sydney
When my parents told us that we were going on a pilgrimage to Russia, I started to have a lot of misgivings. For years we had kept in our hearts the treasure of Holy Russia, but here, in Australia, all one seemed to get about Russia was negative vibes. As a result of this it was with many misgivings that I approached this trip, not knowing what to expect. I remember my parents saying gently , ‘Don’t judge Russia, she has just been on Golgotha and is starting to experience the Resurrection.’
We were pleasantly surprised on our arrival at Moscow airport to be met by my Godfather who was also visiting Russia on a pilgrimage. He is a hieromonk and an archimandrite. We were therefore able to travel around with him and have many opportunities open up to us. We experienced things to which perhaps an ordinary visitor would not have ready access.
Our pilgrimage began the very next day, when we took off to the ancient city of Smolensk, the region of my grandparents’ birthplace, stopping off at the various holy places on the way. This became the basic form of our pilgrimage: we would journey to the well-known cities such as Smolensk, St Petersburg, Pskov, Vladimir, Murom, Novgorod, Sarov, Optina and many others, always stopping at monasteries and Churches on the way which had some important spiritual bearing.
I must say that it became obvious quickly that almost everywhere you stop in Russia, that is in a church or monastery, there are great treasures of sanctity. I now understand, after this intense pilgrimage, the meaning of ‘Holy Russia.’ It does not mean that the people of Russia are all holy, in many instances far from it, but the ideal of Holy Russia is bound up with the intense open struggle between true original Orthodox Christianity and godlessness in its various forms. In other words, good versus evil. You not only see this in the Church, but this battle is so open and intense, that it is the reason why people, who are not tuned to the Orthodox life and who would not be aware of this battle, would automatically tend to judge Russia in negative terms.
For example, you go into any cathedral church, or even a village, and they will have, for sure, a miracle-working icon, relics of saints and people with a deep warm and living faith. You also meet people who have obviously been given spiritual gifts in guiding others through these godless times, for example, God-bearing Elders, Eldresses and Fools for Christ.
Most of all my experiences in Russia were so personal, that I do not like to relate them lightly. However, I would like to share two small incidents with you:
In the ancient city of Bogoliubsk (translated ‘God-Loving’) when we walked into their huge cathedral, which like most churches in Russia was extensively damaged by communists and are now being renovated - there on the pillar of the nave was the miraculous appearing of the image of the Royal New Martyr Saint Alexius (the Tsarevitch or Son of the last Tsar) and in the altar the miraculous appearance of the fresco icon of his father saint, Tsar Nicholas II, the Royal Passion Bearer. These icons were not made by human hands. A nun came up to us and pointed out on the pillar the beginning of the appearance of Grand Duchess Elizabeth, also a saint. Anyone can see this and we were even able to video this and share it with others.
At Tsarskoe Selo, in the personal cathedral of worship, dedicated to the Feodorov icon of the Mother of God, built by the last imperial Romanovs, we were treated to soup, rye bread, buckwheat, all blended with much love and hospitality from the faithful. This was an especial treat, because I had a very nasty cold and felt like crying and going straight to bed. This soup, which I usually abhor (shchi: a Russian sour cabbage soup) really helped clear up my cold and I actually liked it so much, that I had seconds. Maybe it was so good, because it was made with love.
The mission of these people at Tsarskoe is to feed the soldiers and while they are eating to teach them the Law of God. It is an amazing thing to be so close to rough manly soldiers and to be in the church kitchen and feel the holiness of that prayed in place. The church cat (naturally, a pure-bred Russian Blue), gave me such cuddles while we were eating.
For over 70 years, Russia did battle with the atheistic communist regime. During that period some one hundred million people were murdered in order to keep that regime going, and out of these, some 60 million died because of their Orthodox faith. They are known as the ‘New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia,’ they are saints, 60 million of them.
In no time in history have so many martyrs been given to the world as intercessors in our difficult times. This is another reason why we can call Russia, ‘Holy Russia,’ because that open battle of good versus evil is still continuing in that land. Evil has not yet conquered it, whereas in the West, evil has already swamped it, so that few do battle with evil in God’s arena.
I think that if ever one gets a chance, one should go to Russia, not as a tourist, but as a pilgrim. It would be a great eye opener and would give much benefit to one’s soul and spiritual development.
From Nina Ivlenkov (aged 16 years)
Someone who understands ...
A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell. He painted a sign advertising the pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of a little boy, “Mister,” he said, “ I want to buy one of your puppies.” “Well,” said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, “ these puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money.” The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer. “I’ve got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?” “Sure,” said the farmer. And with that he let out a whistle. “Here Dolly!” he called. Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur.
The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight. As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse. Slowly another little ball appeared; this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp it slid. Then in a somewhat awkward manner the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up ... “I want that one,” the little boy said, pointing to the runt. The farmer knelt down at the boy’s side and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would.” With that the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers. In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe. Looking back up at the farmer, he said, “You see Sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.”
The world is full of people who need someone who understands.
Fr Ted Doncaster sent this story from Perth *** The Incarnate Christ came among us ... as Someone who understands:
As a child I was brought up as a good, evangelical Christian by my loving mother and father. I believed in a literal interpretation of the bible and I meant the creed whenever I said it in church. I was there at church every Sunday and I enjoyed the worship and the loud music that we would sing. It was my heritage; my tradition. I was an Anglican and that was the right way; the truth. However, towards the end of my time as an Anglican there were things that started to creep into the church that unsettled me. It was decided by the Anglican synod that women should be allowed to be ordained as priests. The leaders of the church began to compromise on issues of the Creation of the world and worst of all there were some respected bishops who began saying that they no longer believed in a literal resurrection of Christ.
These things began to sit uncomfortably with me as a Christian who had been brought up on the remnants of truth that still remained in the Anglican church and I began to have trouble defending my faith when questioned by my friends.
Around four years ago my father began to read a book about the Orthodox church, its theology and its history. Over the course of time he became convinced that Orthodoxy was the truth that we were seeking and resolved to convert along with the whole family. This came as a shock to me because it sounded to me as though we were changing religion but after a small amount of research I too began to see the light that shines through Orthodoxy. When we finally converted, everything was new and different and we had to leave behind a lot of traditions that were dear to us. One of the traditions that I enjoyed being free of, however, was the ‘tradition’ of feeling uneasy when I was asked questions about my religion. I finally felt as though the faith that I had was completely defensible. There is nothing that I have uncovered in the Orthodox church that I have not been able to assimilate. And there is nothing I have ever found that has proven to be out-dated or irrelevant.
There were many changes that had to be made of course, such as the complete change in worship style from the loud and spontaneous concert-style services of the protestant churches to the highly structured and ceremonious Orthodox liturgies. These differences were hard to deal with, especially at times like Christmas, which I had always celebrated in the same way for as long as I could remember. To know, however, that you are finally worshiping God in the right way after so long, reduces any need for the personal fulfilment that is gained through the practice of your inherited – but incorrect – traditions.
I have been asked to write about what it has been like to be a young person becoming a new Orthodox Christian. The thing that I have most enjoyed has been the comfort of knowing that I have finally found the truth.
From James Harvey (aged 19years).
April 2002: Deadline for written contributions March 15th. Please send them to
Riasaphor Virginia, 14, Mihil Street, Preston, Vic. 3072. Tel. & Fax. 03 9484 2238.
Donations towards expenses are appreciated: suggest $5pa in Australia and $10pa overseas.
We thank Archimandrite Nabil for his assistance.