Saturday, January 23, 2016

Children’s camp at St Sava Free Serbian Orthodox Monastery

The annual St Sava children’s camp completed its sessions on Friday 9/22.1.2016. More than 30 children participated. Archimandrite Christophor, Abbott John (ROCA) and Hieromonk Simeon, along with others, gave lessons and participated in activities over five days.

Serving at Liturgy:





The great blessing of water:

Getting newly blessed Holy Water:

Raising the flags and singing national anthems:

Diving into the pond after Archimandrite Christophor threw the Holy Cross into the water:




Vespers for St John the Baptist

Services in the Church:


Group photo:








Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sermon by Archbishop Sofrony

….. Therefore, also we, my dear ones, every parish individually, and the entire universal Church taken as a whole is the Body of Christ. Together we are the Body of Christ – every individual parish reflects in itself every day, at every Liturgy, when the Priest performs the Divine Liturgy, every parish commemorates the incarnation of our Lord.

On the Altar Table, at every Liturgy, the Lord becomes flesh under the guise of bread and wine. His Body and Blood are offered to us. In each parish, the Lord is present, not partly, but in full. Every parish, with the Altar table at its head… We are all the Body of Christ – not individually, but all of us together.

The (parish) community is gathered together with one condition – that we have united together in order to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, so that we would together enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This is our only goal in establishing communities, in establishing parishes. Our first responsibility – of every parishioner – is to become the Body of Christ, the Body of the Church of Christ. Therefore we all must be one – we should not each one separately work out our salvation – but rather all together.

This is what we come to Church for – so that we together can fulfill our main task – to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. We do not come here for anything else. We do not come to expound on our relations, to explain what who thinks of whom. We come here because the parish – the Church – is the step to the Kingdom of Heaven. And we are all witnesses of this at every Liturgy, and we all answer “Amen” to the Priest’s exclamation: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and Son…”

This is the beginning of the Kingdom of Heaven, here in the Church, my dear ones…not somewhere else…No other time but at Liturgy, nowhere but in the Church does the Kingdom of Heaven begin. It is the first step to the Kingdom of Heaven. And the first and foremost responsibility of the parish is for us together to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, so that we would together enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

But we often forget this responsibility of ours, and each parish often becomes some sort of external structure, some sort of organisation. And people come to the services, to the parish and it is as if they do not feel that they participate in the Liturgy, in what is happening on the Altar Table.

My dear ones, without your faith, without your love - the Lord cannot save us. For if we have love, if we have faith – only then can the Lord enter our hearts. Yet what is our hearts not occupied with during the Liturgy? What thoughts and what justifications is it not occupied with, instead of the main purpose that is happening at the Liturgy. The main thing that happens is that the Lord is present amongst us. The Lord, the Living God, present on the Altar, looks at our soul and looks at heart, at what it is occupied with.

Therefore, my dear ones, while we live in the vain, sinful world, do not forget what we come together for, why we establish parishes, what we live here on earth for. Remember that each parish individually, all of us together, are the Body of Christ.

We are members of Christ – but look at how we sometimes behave! How unfriendly we are, and how we have some sort of thoughts against our neighbour, against someone. Remember that this person also desires salvation, that for him as well the Lord was crucified on the Cross. Remember that also for this person, who we do not like at this moment, or who does something incorrect in relation to us – remember that for him also Blood was shed…

When we come to Church, we should wholly adore the Eucharist, adore the Lord – and come to Church for Him. We should come to Church and forget about the entire world that exists around us, forget about all the unfairness and all evil that affects us. We should fall on our knees before the Lord and beg for forgiveness and because of our sins, beg because of those offenses which we cause one another.

Remember that we must not come to Church mechanically, because we of habit – we are used to it, we come, and … we should come consciously. The Lord was not crucified on the Cross mechanically – it was not something that just happened – He was crucified because he adored us, because He loved His creation.

But do we adore Christ? Do we love Him? Is He the most important for us in the world? Or is something else? No – often what is most important for us, is what others think of us, or what others say about us – for us that is the main thing.

No, my dear ones – remember that the Lord shed His Blood for us on the Cross – for us all, equally. He loves everyone equally, and everyone is dear to Him. Even bad people are dear to Him, and even good people are evil before Him.

But remember, dear ones, when we come to Church – leave all your maliciousness and all your craftiness outside the walls of the Church, and come with a clean heart, just once a week, to the Churchcome to the Living God. The God Who sits on the Throne (Altar), the God Who is given to you on the spoon from the Chalice – the Living God! Come to Him with your mind and heart. Look what exists in our heart, what is hidden in the heart – every sort of falsehood and every kind of obscenity.

My dear ones, remember what we live on earth for. Father Wsewolod, whom we commemorate today, called us to …. only this, he called and taught us to live in the Church, to be with Christ, to be with the Living God. When we commemorate our fathers and relatives who have departed before us, let us remember their teaching – do not only remember, but fulfil it is your lives. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples”, says the Lord, “if ye have love one to another”. If we will have the Love of Christ amongst ourselves, in our behaviour, we will be preaching the Risen, Living God.

But if we, by our behaviour, preach disputes, problems, or anything else that is against God, then we will not at all be preaching of God, but rather, we will be preaching of our passion, of the creations of the devil. It is him that teaches us, and teaches us how to be evil to each other. It is him that has us discover all sorts of evil in another person.

But rather, my dear ones, try to see in that very person, what is most good, most decent, most enlightened. And in that moment, in which that person perhaps has a bad attitude to us, try to see in that very person the most pure, the best in him – his soul, his intention to be saved, his love for God. Do not try straight away to see anything bad in a person – rather, see only what is good, what is pure. And then your guardian angel will open your eyes and disclose to you the person seen from the other point of view – the Gospel understanding. What did the Lord come to earth for? So that we would see each other through the Gospel – through the commandments of God.

After all, we do not see ourselves through the commandments. We forgive ourselves many kinds of deeds, but we do not forgive our neighbour.

My dear ones, let us look at each other through the Gospel, let us rouse ourselves to the love of God. Let us adore the services, the Liturgies – let us worship the presence of God amongst us. For whether we want it or not, the Lord is present in the Church, because He ordained it so, saying: “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” His Church – that is us. It is not the walls, it is us, the souls. We are the Body of Christ. Therefore, let us conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the members of Christ. Let less be heard about any kind of disputes taking place amongst us. Let us forget about all disappointments when we come to God. And then the Lord will forget His displeasure in relation to our sins. If we learn to forgive and not notice what is said to us, then God will also forgive our sins. And then God will not turn His attention to our falsehoods.

My dear ones, I call you again to remember that we – the parish, the Church – are the Body of Christ. We have not gathered here for anything else, but to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven together. Therefore, my dear ones, hold every Liturgy dear, whenever it is served, by whomever it is served, and wherever it is served. Remember that on the Altar and in the Chalice God is present. On the spoon, the Body of the Living God is given to us. This is not just some ritual, not some mechanical act, but rather, the Body of the Living God. Think about that, and with fear of God and faith draw nigh to the Body and Blood of Christ. Amen.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Exaltation of the Cross - Camp

From September 25-27, a group of young people came to the Annunciation Hermitage for a camp.

They made and erected a Cross on “Mount Tabor” above the monastery.

6206a.jpg Carpentry skills by the boys were put to good use. Some of the boys helped with the iconography, whilst the rest had the difficult task of digging a deep hole in the rocky ground. The tropar and other hymns to the Cross were sung.

The participants had five lectures and discussions on the Law of God.



They prayed at the services morning and evening, and took part of Holy Communion.


6308a.jpgA competition - the teams were handed the first question, which started them off on a search for ongoing clues hidden all over the monastery property. Competing team members share experiences on the challenges of the competition track - quick decisions had to be made during the race.


A campfire with discussions about ancient Rome, the first Christians, and tall tales.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Family Convention at Mountain View (USA)

See the report from the Convention at Mountain View Russian Religious and Cultural Centre. Bishop Andronik headed the summer gathering. Metroplitan Demetrios of America (Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece) participated.


Bishop Sophrony of St Petersburg and parishioners in Russia sent a video greeting:

The family is a new Eden, planted by God.
The husband and wife are placed in this garden, in order to cultivate it.
“Keep thy tongue from evil,
and thy lips from speaking guile.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.”

Apostle Paul in his Epistles greets spouses as “the house church”. And in this small domestic church, the husband and wife help one another attain spiritual perfection, preparing for eternity.
Our life is a school of love. And the first lessons in that school we receive in our own family.
The family of the holy Royal Martyrs of Russia provide us with a magnificent example of that which resurrects all the best in man – which is true love in Christ.
“Father asks to pass on to everyone…that you should remember that the evil that is in the world, is going to become even more powerful, but evil does not conquer evil, rather, only love.”
(Letter from the Tsar family, Tobolsk, 1918)


Sunday, January 25, 2015

More Pictures from Children’s Camp

The children’s choir singing at Liturgy on the day of St Gregory of Nyssa, Friday 10/23 January.
The Great Entrance.

National anthems every morning


Services and singing practice in Church.

Trivia quiz night


Sessions in the camp hall

Posters made by children to collect funds for the benefit of disabled children in Kosovo.


Presentation of certificates, awards and gifts.

The closing session of camp 2015


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Children’s Camp at Serbian Monastery 2015


The annual children’s camp at St Sava New Kalenich Monastery near Canberra concluded today, 11/24.January. 28 children attended from all over Australia.
camp15aa.jpgEvery morning, after the short prayer service, the children raised the Australian and Serbian flags accompanied by singing the national anthems. Thereafter followed dormitory inspections with announcement of winners of the bedmaking contest. Breakfast was then served, after which followed morning lessons. There were daily lessons in the Law of God, services morning and evening, and singing practice. In addition, the children learned about iconography and church and Serbian history. Select lives of Saints were read. The main course of study was presented by Igumen John (Smelic)(ROCA) and rassophore nun Elisabeth of the Annunciation Hermitage (ROCA), with select sessions by Fr Bojan Vlajic and others.
camp15a2.jpgThe campers conscientiously kept the fasts and learned more about the meaning of this pious practice.
The children chanted the Divine Liturgy on the feast of Theophany, on Friday 10/23, and Saturday 11/24 in English and Church Slavonic. All prepared for Confession and Holy Communion at the conclusion of the camp. An exciting treasure hunt incorporating questions on the spiritual materials studied served as the exam.
camp15aa1.jpgFriday afternoon, the very reverend Abbott Hristifor presented each child with a graduation diploma from the St Sava Academy 2015. Various prizes were presented to the most improved camper, the best singing voice, best organiser, best behaviour, and others.
The weather was comfortably cool in Canberra, allowing for outside play and swimming.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Upcoming children’s camp at Serbian Monastery

1camp-services.jpgThe traditional annual children’s camp at the Free Serbian Monastery of St Sava will take place from January 18 to 23. The camp is open for children aged 7 to 12 years old of all nationalities.

Please download a registration form here and return to the organisers as soon as possible.

1camp-altar-boys.jpgLessons in the Law of God at the camp are given in English by Fr John Smelic (ROCA). There are short daily morning and evening services, which the children chant and read themselves. Accommodation is in separate girls’ and boys’ dorm houses on the grounds of the monastery. There is opportunity to play tennis, fish in the monastery lake, and an excursion. At the end of the camp, all the children take Confession and Holy Communion.

1camp-meal.jpgMore information from Jela Bulatovic, who can be contacted on telephone 0402033834.

The St Sava Festival will take place at the monastery the weekend of 24-25 January, and is open for all pilgrims.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

To Fast or not To Fast? Fasting in a Western World

As you all know, the Nativity Fast has begun. Fasting is a time of deep contemplation of one’s sins and a spiritual battlefield against temptations of the world. Fasting is one of the main foundations of Orthodox Christianity and has been a staple component of Orthodox life. It is preached by all Christian priests and is a way for all Orthodox Christians to be closer to God.

As an Orthodox Christian, fasting was indoctrinated into me at a young age. My parents would always tell me the importance of fasting, and how it strengthens our soul and as Christians, it is essential to give up foods such as chocolate or meat for a few weeks, in order not to be tempted by worldly possessions. However, my parents went the extra mile. During fasting, we would stop watching television and listening to music. It might sound strange, but not watching television and listening to music brings a peace and calm to the household. I don’t feel as hyperactive as I do when being surrounded by the loud noises of music and TV. And I accepted it, just like that. It became part of my everyday routine, that I never questioned why we fast, or why I can’t have chocolate for seven weeks. It became a part of me and of who I am.

However, living in today’s society, fasting has become more of a challenge. Throughout my high school years, friends have invited me to parties during the fasting period and I’ve declined, telling them I was fasting. Then, they asked me why I fast and what’s so special about it. Even though I told them it was part of my religion and it helps me be closer to God, their reaction makes me somewhat ashamed of fasting. I feel as if I’m being judged by society for choosing to not eat meat or dairy. Moreover, I have succumbed to peer pressure and have broken the fast. I was at a friend’s birthday party at a restaurant, and I wasn’t tempted to break the fast. But then, when the birthday cake came out, my friends were pressuring me have a slice, even though I had politely said no to the offer. They kept insisting I had a slice, and I gave in. I was ashamed that I broke down so easily and wasn’t able to hold fast to my beliefs.

Though I do have friends that are understanding of my beliefs and respect my decisions, it’s still disheartening to be pressured into doing something that is against your character and who you are, more so when your friends are the ones pressuring you. It’s also a shame that nowadays, people – more specifically, young children – of Orthodox faith don’t partake in the fasting period. Some people make excuses in order not to fast, and they don’t feel ashamed that they are twisting one of the foundations of Christianity to suit their needs. Fasting is a strict commandment of the Orthodox Church and it must be obeyed. St Philaret of New York tells in one of his sermons that fasting is a ‘Church law’ and every Christian must adhere to it. He goes further to say that one who does not fast and disobeys the Church stops being a Christian. It is important that we, as Christians, should maintain one of the commandments of the Orthodox Church.

People might say that fasting is a struggle and difficult to commit to. Yes, it is a struggle, but a necessary one. Though it weakens our physical nature, it strengthens our spiritual nature, so that we will be ready to accompany God in Paradise.

Sophia Desiatov

Saturday, November 8, 2014

St Demetrius the Great-Martyr and Christian attitude to sensual pleasures

st-demetrius.jpgSt Dimitri was a high-ranking official in Thessalonica. He not only cared for the people’s material well-being, but also taught them the Christian faith. This is why Emperor Maximian imprisoned him.

Emperor Maximian loved bodily and vain pleasures. He organised spectacles where Lyaeus, a giant, from a platform would throw innocent victims onto tightly-spaced, upright spears, so that they would be stabbed to death. However, a Christian youth, Nestor, was found who would deprive the Emperor of his favourite entertainment. It was Dimitri who blessed and encouraged this struggle, which culminated in Lyaeus the giant being killed by a weak teenager.

In the context of St Dimitri and St Nestor’s struggles, it is appropriate to ask ourselves: What is the Christian attitude to sensual pleasures?

a. The purpose of pleasures and entertainments is to give us an essential rest from work. Ever since the expulsion of man from paradise, hard work has been necessary.

..cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.
Genesis 3:17-18

Our work is usually associated with sweat and sorrows. The body requires rest to renew its strength, through food and sleep. The soul seeks to forget its sorrows and renew its powers in activities of a higher nature, such as art, which remind it of the perfection of Paradise. This is natural, or even essential, and therefore not to be condemned.

b. But before we give ourselves over to pleasures, we must ask ourselves, is our body and soul really exhausted from hard, but useful, important and unavoidable work? Should we allow it a deserved reward? Or is our life filled with boredom and heaviness of soul, the fruit of idleness rather than hard work? The Apostle says

…if any would not work, neither should he eat.
1 Thessalonians 3:10

St Nestor defeats the giant Lyaeus. Bottom right: St Demetrius blessing St Nestor

c. Does the pleasure we propose strengthen us, and not, on the contrary, further exhaust our bodily powers? Will it lift up your soul, or will it weaken the mind? Will it enliven your heart with pure, deep and life-giving joy, making the soul ready and cheerful for work; good-tempered and patient in sorrows? If not, then it is better for the soul to deny itself such pleasure. The Apostle says:

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
1 Corinthians 10:23

d. Will this pleasure distract us from some other, more important tasks? For example, our civil or spiritual duties? If it does, our pleasure is not only harmful, but directly criminal! If, when the Church calls him to glorification of God’s love and mercy, when She celebrates the greatest mysteries of our salvation, an Orthodox Christian spends his time in sensual pleasures, is this not an obvious disdain of the customs of the Church, and of God Himself? Such pleasure becomes a mockery of God, worthy of punishment.

e. However, the foremost danger in sensual pleasures is that they may bind our heart to themselves, becoming an inextricable need of our soul. They can deprive us of spiritual freedom, which a Christian must treasure more than everything. This freedom allows the Christian to be independent of everything earthly, so that he does not fear anything. He is the lord of his desires and feelings, the king of his internal world. Only this freedom allows him to conquer temptation. It is attainable by constant self-denial and patience, constant conquering of one’s own tendencies and cutting off one’s own will, and the ability to deny oneself in everything. If we always give in to our sensual desires, then we are submitting ourselves to pleasure, giving it power, and allowing it to become stronger, more demanding and persistent.

My brother Christians! Apart from the will of God, which governs us all, whatever else we are conquered by, leads to a shameful slavery for our God-like, reasonable and free soul. Giving in to fleshly pleasure and sinful passions is the same as selling ourselves as slaves to sin; may God save us from this.

Abridged from Protopriest G. Dyachenko: Full yearly cycle of short lessons.
26 October: St Demetrius, from the works of Demetrius of Cherson

Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Orthodox Teenager’s View of Halloween

By Sophia Desiatov

halloween.jpgAs most of you are aware, Halloween is just right around the corner. It’s a time where children dress up as imaginary creatures and go around knocking on doors, hoping that their reward will be candy. Growing up, I was never allowed to participate in the tradition of dressing up and trick or treating. I remember my parents telling me that on this night, whenever a knock was heard, we weren’t allowed to open the door. I didn’t understand it at the time; I just thought Halloween was a universally accepted holiday, like Christmas or Easter. But now, I understand why my parents were so cautious about this one particular night. And I think it’s important that all Orthodox Christians – especially children – should understand the meaning behind Halloween.

Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve, is a tradition that began in the pre-Christian times. The Celtic people, who were commonly pagans, believed that ‘life was born from death’. Thus, on the last day of October, they worshipped a deity called Samhain (pronounced sow-in), otherwise known as the Lord of death. On this night, sacrifices – animals or human – were made in order to appease Samhain, who in turn would lower the veil between the living and the dead, allowing the lost ones to be reunited the living for one night. The festival also included a bonfire of oak branches where the sacrifices were made and other rituals performed. Moreover, the custom of ‘trick or treat’ originated from people – in costume - visiting houses in exchange for food, so that the hunger of the dead would be satiated. If Samhain was not pleased with the offering, ‘tricks’ or curses would befall on those visitors.

It doesn’t sound very innocent, does it? The trouble with Halloween is that because of society, it has become heavily commoditised, shrouding the true meaning and covering it with money and profits. This makes it easier for children to see Halloween as a way to spend money and have fun, while ignoring the warnings. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced a traditional Halloween night, unlike the parades in Greenwich Village in the United States, and I don’t plan to. It feels wrong going against my belief in order to celebrate and revel in a night of darkness in order that a satanic deity could be appeased, all because everyone else around me is doing it.

That’s another problem with Halloween; it has become readily accepted by society, that it puts pressure on faithful Orthodox Christians to succumb to the temptation and darkness of Halloween. It puts pressure on Orthodox children to follow their peers’ footsteps, because to them, it’s ‘cool’. But we shouldn’t feel pressured to explain to our peers that we don’t celebrate Halloween because it goes against our faith. They should learn to embrace our values and respect our decisions, just as they expect us to respect their decisions.

Halloween is a pagan tradition that seeks to appease a satanic deity, and Orthodox Christians must learn to defend themselves against those who attempt to draw us into this celebration of evil.

Sophia Desiatov

Editor’s note: Orthodox Christians would do best to attend the All-night Vigil in honour of St John of Kronstadt on Friday night, rather than participate in pagan festivities!


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