St. Nicholas Melbourne Publication
#34 June 2002
Relevant or Irrelevant?
And the soul of man on this beautiful and blessed earth laments his
fallen nature. Hunger and injustice, crime and prejudice, poverty and wars
result from a world made material instead of spiritual, a world turned to
itself, instead of a world transformed “in God”.
Humanity cries: God be relevant! Where are you…amidst the despair and
turmoil of this world? I am groping for Paradise, but I cannot find it for the
road is uncertain and dimly lit, the path is covered with thorns, and the
ground has turned to dust.
through the darkness comes the hope of a new dawn and the brilliant sunshine
of a new beginning, a new life in Christ. God and Man are reunited. Christ!
Light. Peace. Joy. Christ brings new life as we acquire the New Adam through
Baptism and become a member of the Body of Christ – the Church.
Youth cries: Church be relevant! For I am light and free, overflowing with
fresh idealism and innocence. I am no longer in exile for God has sent His
Incarnate Son to this world! But where is Christ? I cannot find Him in my
Church, when it calls itself One, and yet it feels as though we are split into
nearly twenty separate jurisdictions. I cannot see Christ through the hurt,
when our priests mistrust and bicker with one another. Church! Please don’t
be secular or parochial, a national, social, or ethnic group. Church be
relevant! Where is Christ when I get my draft notice, when my college campus
erupts into confusion and violence, when many of the children of India starve,
and the Middle East struggles to survive, and the Palestinian children sleep
under the sky because their homes were destroyed?
continues to cry with restless discontent!
Help me find Christ!
Teach me what is right in my own language, guide me to the truth, assist me as
I assume responsibility for the destiny of this world!
Be my living faith!
God says: “It is good ... that man questions and searches, for in his
struggles he will come to realise my purpose. For I am searching too. I am
searching out man’s soul to bring man to himself, to ask the question, “Am
I Relevant?” instead of “Church: Is it Relevant or Irrelevant?” Because
Man is the Church, and relevancy begins within every person, as an
inward struggle to find Christ through the Holy Spirit, and then to extend
back into the midst of the world’s problems. To be relevant is to take the
Holy Spirit seriously. And to be a relevant Church, two or three of the
faithful must “gather” together and truly enter into the joy of the Holy
Spirit. The Church faithful must “come together in one place” to make
present a living Christ, and then, we, the Church, must transfigure ourselves,
becoming active witnesses in the world of the New Life, of which we are made
partakers in the Eucharist. All else will follow. With the conversion of
himself, Man will see the holiness of all creation, he will live in
brotherhood in a society infused and animated by the Holy Spirit, and he will
come to terms with his social environment. That’s quite a Revolution. A
Christian one. It’s pretty radical; and it’s pretty relevant.
then – our Church is relevant to any society. Indeed, the Church assumes the
humanity of each generation through the creative activity of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost contains the vital message for our society. Receive ye the Holy
Spirit. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with
one accord, in one place.”
Church was One, and the Holy Spirit instructs that Church to speak in a
comprehensible language. Receive ye the Holy Spirit. Pentecost tells us that
language should not isolate, hide or separate us from our distinct historical
mission in this country, for Australia and New Zealand has much to learn from
our rich traditions and cultural heritage. To refuse to accept the challenge
with which the Holy Spirit confronts us in Australia and New Zealand is to
deny that very heritage and the future of the Orthodox Church for Australian
and New Zealander generations to come.
see the Holy Spirit coming alive in youth’s new definition of goals for the
21st century. I see “the Movement” going forward. I see a
relevant Church in youth’s awareness and suggested commitment.
first category in youth’s new plan of action for a relevant church is
Religious. If we are to be useful in this world in any way, be it religious,
educational, Sunday school teaching, humanitarian works, helping seminarians,
we must begin at the beginning: Christ. If we want to give ourselves to
others, we must become worth giving, we must become fully human – we must
see a relevant Church in youth’s religious involvement with Church Schools,
adult education, missionary work, workshops, lectures, discussion groups on
college campus, choirs. I see a relevant Church in youth’s promotion of
inter-Orthodox retreats and conferences, as an organic fellowship of faith and
love, leading to common action through genuine knowledge of our Faith, by
making available literature and magazines on Orthodoxy. I see a relevant
Church in youth’s commitment to sponsor seminarians so that our young
priests can understand and share the anxieties, visions, hopes and energies of
Church is relevant when the family “gathers” together for prayer at home
and when the “ecclesia” participate in the Sacraments.
religious awareness and commitment, followed by their Humanitarian and Social
concerns echo the words of the Psalmist: “Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right Spirit within me. Restore unto me the joy of thy Salvation
and steady me with thy guiding Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy
ways and the impious will be converted to thee.”
second area for action, the Humanitarian, identifies the Church with human
suffering. The Church is relevant when it is active in charitable and
community work. The Church is relevant when we “gather” together, and
visit and pray for the sick. St. James said, “Religion, pure, and undefiled
before God…is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.”
Church is relevant when it is aware of and involved in social and political
issues of society, with action based on Christian Principles.
whenever we are “gathered” together, filled with the Holy Spirit and
carrying forth such awareness and commitment in Christ, as outlined in
youth’s plan for the “Orthodox Decade of Destiny in Australia” – there
is a relevant Church.
will no longer need to ask “Where is Christ?” because He will be manifest
in all things.
Church is relevant. It’s only up to us to find Christ and to bring Him to
life in the Church and the world today. Who is willing?
Lord said to Isaiah, “Whom shall I send?”
Isaiah replied, as we must all reply, “Here am I, Lord. Send me.”
the Bible a book of Science?
everyone known to be a Christian at school or work has been challenged on the
accuracy of the Biblical account of creation. Many of us react to the
philosophical grounds of the theory of evolution by holding that the Bible
offers an alternative, all sufficient, description of how the world was
is interesting that few people on either side of the debate address the
creation account in the second chapter of Genesis. In Genesis 1, God creates
vegetation on the third day, and man on the sixth. In Genesis 2, God creates
man "in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no
plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet
According to this account, only after creating man does the Lord create the
plants. Differences such as these can be found in several places in the Old
Testament. The Holy Fathers were not ignorant of this fact. They "tended
to interpret [the differences] in terms of the pedagogical purpose of the
narrator who is telling a story on different levels."
Muslims, God's word had to have been written by the hand of God. They believe
that the Koran descended on Mohammed in its final form. We must not hold to a
similar view of the Bible. Those who wrote it were God-inspired human beings.
As in our teaching on salvation, we hold that God's Grace and man's will work
in synergy, and are not necessarily opposed.
do not need to consider the contribution of the Biblical narrators as totally
insignificant in order to protect God's revelation from human distortion. Far
from effacing the narrator, in his homilies on the six days of creation,
generally known as "The Hexaemeron", St Basil starts by praising
Moses, whom he credits with writing the creation account. He tells us that
Moses had "received a royal education, and [he] had for his teachers the
wise men of Egypt"
St John Chrysostom, in his Homilies on the Gospel of St Matthew, uses what he
calls "discordance in little matters" between the four Evangelists
as proof of the truth of the Gospel. "For if they had agreed in all
things exactly even to time, and place, and to the very words, none of our
enemies would have believed but that they had met together, and had written
what they wrote by some human compact."
So the human contribution of the Evangelists is the very evidence of their
miracle of the Bible is that it is "the Word of God in human idiom."
In his Hexaemeron, St Basil is not afraid of using the science of his day. He
spends considerable time on the meaning of words, such as "day" and
"evening", as used in the Scriptures. St John Cassian, in his
Institutes, says that when the Bible uses the expression "God's
anger", we are not to understand it literally. Such expressions are anthropomorphisms,
that is, "things which are spoken metaphorically of God in Holy
Scripture, with human figures."
This is the case when the Scriptures speak of God's hands which have
fashioned us, and God's feet for which the earth is a stool.
account of our beginnings reveals the love of God for His creation, and
especially for the human race. Like the rest of Scripture, it needs to be
understood in the light of faith. Taking the Bible as a book of scientific
facts, which anyone can use to instruct himself concerning the beginnings of
the world, is a symptom of our modern mind. It is not a reaction to modernism,
as we often like to think. The modern mind is trained to evaluate facts, not
to praise the Maker of all that exists. It finds it hard to read the account
of our creation as a doxology, as an awe-inspiring story which communicates to
us that God is the creator of all things "visible and invisible",
that He loves His creation, and that He chose us from among all other beings
to bear His image.
Lord, how manifold are Your works, in wisdom You have made them all."
from Ziad and Terri Baroudi
 St Basil the Great, Nine Homilies of the Hexaemeron, Homily I.
 St John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, Homily I.
 Fr George Florovsky, Revelation and Interpretation. From www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/revelation_interpretation.htm
 St John Cassian, Book VIII – "Of the Spirit of Anger", Chapter 4.
 Psalm 104:24.
this is being written there are sounds of hammering penetrating through from
the laundry, where a new shower unit is being installed in order to extend our
accommodation and capacity to receive visitors. Johnny is busy and inventive,
working to ensure that the most beneficial use is made of all spaces. He has
been helping us here for four months now and we have shared together in the
transformation of the site. We are now in the process of putting the final
touches to the Chapel and to the Reading Room beyond it, so we are freer to
focus on general maintenance of our home and outdoor bungalow, and to attend
to the development of our gardens.
Today Johnny and I had to go into the Chapel to attend to a minor
repair, and as we did so he said, ‘Better say “Good Morning to
Jesus,”’ with which he venerated the Icon of the Saviour. We are aware
that it is not just our site that has been transformed as we have worked, but
all of us who have been involved in the project. No longer do we hear around
us the comment: ‘Oh, that was lucky!’ when something falls into place,
rather now there is a general awareness that God is indeed providing, we need
to be attentive to His lead. So, Johnny will remark: ‘Oh, Providence
again!’ as we see how the work unfolds.
There have been days when the task was tough. Johnny could see just how
difficult certain sections of the work were. Then we called upon our Parish
Priest to come with the Holy Water and to pray over our work. There was
general perception of the ensuing merciful enabling of the Lord. We received
offers of help with the manual work and watched as those who laboured were
themselves helped and given chances to grow in God’s life. Johnny’s skill
in care for developing youngsters has been well extended over this time.
It has been a joy to develop some new areas for cultivation. As we do so
we have been remembering St. Anna’s garden, in which she sat and watched the
birds nesting. We have had an
abundance of bird life to enjoy here from the pair of blackbirds which nested
in our greenhouse, to the lorikeets which so enjoyed stripping the fruit trees
of residual fruit. We are indeed blessed with a haven within reach of the city
to which we will be glad to welcome visitors over the coming months.
From Riasaphor Virginia
Paul writes: ‘To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are
sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place
call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.’ 1 Cor.1:2.
All of us who are members of the Church are called to live godly and holy
lives, saintly lives, here on earth from which we may hope to move to eternal
life with the Lord in the heavens hereafter. This is well illustrated in the
Troparion for the Dormition of St. Anna, Mother of the Theotokos, celebrated
on July 25th.
divinely wise Anna, you carried in your womb the pure Mother of God, who gave
birth to the Life. Wherefore you now have been carried up joyfully to the
inheritance of heaven, to the abode of those who rejoice in glory. O blessed
one, obtain forgiveness of sins for those who honour you with fervour.
In these three short sentences we have: (1)What the Saint did; (2) The eternal
reward; (3) A request for intercessory prayer by the glorified one. The
earthly Church (Church militant) and the heavenly Church (Church triumphant)
are all part of one family, and as do all close relatives, the members expect
and seek support one from another. This support is shown through our prayers:
we pray for the departed that God may bless them in His life, we seek the
prayers of the glorified saints, that they may assist us in our journey
Icons depict for us those who stand in the God’s presence, who are deified.
As we venerate them, our prayer passes to the prototype, to the one venerated
and we pray that as the Saint is in God’s presence, so we also may be
enabled in our growth in His Life. We are offered ‘participation in the
divine nature,’ (2 Pet.1:4). We seek the assistance of those who have
reached unto that state, to facilitate our progress ‘from one degree of
glory to another,’ (2Cor 3:18). We rejoice in the God who raised Jesus, who
shines in our hearts, (2 Cor 4;6) and pray that in this Paschal season we may
indeed grow in His light.
shine O new Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.’
St Anna is the Patron Saint of our Convent in Melbourne and the Divine Liturgy will be served at the Convent at 10am on her Feast Day July 25th.
Icon for Holy Pentecost
Descent of the Holy Spirit
Pentecost is the baptism of the Church by fire. It is the culminating
moment in the formation of the Church through the Presence and Gift of the
The icon shows the twelve Apostles, together forming a definite figure - a semicircle - who are a beautiful expression of the unity of the body of the church, with all the multiplicity of its members. 
Leonid Ouspensky (with Valdimir Lossky) The Meaning of Icons SVSP
for Holy Pentecost
the All-Highest, descending, confounded the tongues, He divided the nations;
but when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all men to unity;
wherefore with one accord we glorify the All-holy Spirit.
this hymn we are given note of the one true ground for that unity to which all
are called: a unity in the life of God the Holy Spirit. ‘God became man so
that man might become god’ - such is the nature of a human being’s true
destiny; without that participation in divine life a person is not fully alive
or complete. Jesus prays:
they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they
may also be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The
glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even
as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one,
so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as
thou hast loved me.’ John 17:21-23.
ground for unity is participation in a common life, in the life of God through
the Holy Spirit. It rests not at the level of my thinking or my arguing but in
my experience of the ground out of which I live, the centre and root of my
actions. It flows from that spring of living water which the Lord promised to
those who seek eternal life in Him. John 4:14. He came amongst us to ‘bring
many sons to glory.’ Heb.2:10. This shared glory flows from the Spirit’s
Nabil who has been the President of our Convent Committee since its inception,
was to be back in Melbourne after Pascha, for a very short period of three
days. Earlier in the year he visited us and together we designed the Chapel.
Fr Nabil blessed us by his presence and celebrated the Divine Liturgy which
took place on the 16th of May for the first time after completion. When he
asked us if we had furnished the altar, the reply was not yet. However, the
next day, by the grace of God, he arrived with all the necessary items in
order to do the Liturgy. All items were duly blessed before being used. Fr
Nabil produced a very special gift from his luggage: A beautiful free standing
table Cross for our Altar table, the gift of Dr John Melki, members of whose
family are commemorated thereby. Dr Melki is a faithful from St George's
Cathedral, to whom we convey our sincere thanks and gratitude, along with our
continuous prayers. Fr Nabil also brought gifts from Romania to place on the
Altar table as well as a Romanian Blessing Cross.
Dimitri, Ziad and Justin formed the choir, the liturgy proceeded joyfully and
in a prayerful ambiance, with a general participation of which all were
conscious and grateful. Fr Nabil
was assisted in the Altar by Sam, who was very attentive to his need .The
gladsome sound of Orthodox Liturgical Worship permeated the atmosphere for the
first time, especially with the various Paschal hymns which were very
uplifting. It was very gratifying to welcome into the congregation faithful
from our various Antiochian Parishes in Melbourne, youth and older.
Nabil was able to advise us as to how to use the space we have to full
capacity, we are currently building extra cupboard in order to accommodate our
needs. Also we are ordering our new altar Gospel book, and we are arranging a
candle stand for votive candles, which the faithful light as they enter the
Church We need a censer, some Icons and few miscellaneous items .So next time
when we have a visiting Priest we can proudly say: "we have all we need,
Father give us your blessings ".
Any donation towards the purchasing of the above articles would be very much
are we studying?
phone call came in from one of our students in which the concern was expressed
that we should be careful to be studying Scripture in accord with the mind of
the Church, that is from a Patristic base. This is of course a matter which
must of necessity be constantly before us as we sift material and assess it.
In so doing we may avail ourselves of two recent works which are addressing
this issue specifically.
The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective. Vol.1 Scripture, Tradition,
Hermeneutics. By Theodore Stylianopoulos Brookline MA: Holy Cross Orthodox
Press, 1997. Chapters in this work consider both ‘The Church Fathers and
Holy Scripture’ and ‘Modern Biblical Scholarship.’ The consensus reached
is that, while many of the current tools used in exegetical method are
neutral, and may be used with discretion by the Orthodox; great caution must
be exercised in all interpretation of Scripture. In this latter area we need
to retain the perspective that all Scripture was written under the inspiration
of the Holy Spirit by persons living within the Church community and according
to its Tradition. It is only within that same ecclesial environment and with
the same spiritual inspiration that it may rightly be interpreted.
The Way of the Fathers: Exploring the Patristic Mind. By John
Chryssavgis. Thessaloniki: Institute for Patristic Studies, 1998. This work is
beautifully introduced by Archimandrite Vasileios of Iviron Monastery:
Fathers of the Church are not restricted by any limited human endeavour.
Rather, desiring their salvation and offering their lives to God through the
Church - “being wholly consecrated unto God” - they become theological
centrepoints, witnesses of the Kingdom. They do not teach aspects of their
intellect, but existentially reveal the repose that they found in God. They
are not mere thinkers or founders of philosophical systems, but persons filled
with God, manifesting the original beauty of humanity and in the world the
uncreated divine energy that works everything in their heart. ... The Fathers
of the Church, through their strict discipline and intense struggle, shedding
their dispassion, were transferred by divine grace and transformed by divine
energy to the supernatural freedom of the future age. Undergoing divinisation
in experience and not just in concept, they are borne by the Holy Spirit where
it wills and not where they so wish. They no longer belong to themselves, but
to him who died and was risen for us all, as well as to their brothers and
sisters, for whom their merciful heart constantly burns.’ ... ‘This
initiates the potential of human divinisation, of increase of the small, of
revelation of greatness through humility, the reconciliation of the divided
and the constitution of familiarity, the divine indwelling among us, which has
an ecumenical dimension and a homely warmth. So in the end, the great Fathers
are not intellectual giants of human theories, but inspirational mystagogues
of us all into the Kingdom of God which is at hand and remains with us to the
As Vasileios comments: Fr John Chryssavgis: ‘successfully guides us
into the world of the Fathers in all its wonder and sacredness.’ In his
chapter on ‘The Making of Patristic Theology’ he has a section on
‘Scripture and Tradition.’He considers exegetical method and notes that:
‘the starting point in Patristic exegesis was always the context of faith.
This presupposed that Scripture was a
living reality not a dead book. It was the living testimony of a lived history
about the relationship of a living God with a living people.’ Chryssavgis
provides a discussion of typological method and of the Schools of Alexandria
and Antioch. He notes the role of the Cappadocian Fathers and of the
Syriac tradition, notably in Ephrem. Then he continues:
addition to study and real knowledge of the Scriptures, integrity of life,
purity of soul, and Christlike virtue are required ... Whoever wishes to
understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse and purify
himself by holiness of life and imitate the saints themselves by behaviour
similar to theirs. (57).
are challenged and encouraged to pursue our study of sacred Scripture in
accordance with mind of the Church and within this living Tradition.
2002:deadline for written contributions July 15th. Please send them
Virginia. 14, Mihil Street, Preston, Vic. 3072. Tel. & Fax. 03 9484 2238.
thank Archimandrite Nabil for his assistance.