Friday, February 17, 2017
On Tuesday, January 25th (February 7th, new style), Metropolitan Photios of the GOC concelebrated with Bishop John of Melbourne (ROCA) and hieromonk Ioannis (GOC) at the St Gregory the Theologian Church in Bentleigh. Protopriest Stylianos led the chanting.
Despite the Church feast falling on a weekday and the sudden rain, nearly 50 people attended. After Matins and Divine Liturgy a blessing of the five loaves followed, as well as prayers for the living with blessing of a Phanuropita and prayers for the departed with blessing of Kolyva.
The sun came out for the procession around the Church. Afterwards, the sisterhood offered a meal in the hall which was likewise well attended.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
The lives of saints provide lessons for all aspects of our lives. Therefore we should be reading them daily. Not only do we learn what kinds of trials face Orthodox Christians on their path through life, but we are also educated in the nature and practice of love, and are given examples of how to pray, be obedient, discern falsehood or demonic activity, how to be humble, forgiving, and patient, while strictly maintaining the Orthodox faith in all fullness.
After the 2007 union with Moscow, people of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, due to understandable and profound disappointment, have become cautious in trusting clergy. It has been a difficult time for us all. However, it is important for us to continue to learn traditional Orthodoxy, and direct our lives accordingly. A “modern approach” will eventually will lead us away from the Church. For example, we should be aware that the valuable accounts from the lives of saints in fact give hundreds, if not thousands of examples of what kinds of clergymen (and lay people!) not to trust.
For example, in the life of St Athanasius the Great, archbishop of Alexandria (296-373), we read about the heretic Arius:
…spurred on by ambition, he sided at first with Meletios, a schismatic, and then with Archbishop Peter of Alexandria, who ordained him a deacon. He was reconciled with another schismatic, Achillas, who raised him to the presbyterate…
Today, the Church unfortunately sees many “adventurers” among the clergy, who will join one jurisdiction after the other, often due to ambition. This kind of personal-ecclesiastical history is a ‘warning flag’ for us.
At the same time, there exist many laymen and clergy who have turned away from the falsehood of ‘world orthodoxy’ or heterodox faith, and embraced true Orthodoxy. These are distinguished by their humble and consistent work for the Church of Christ, which is often not very spectacular. Arius, on the other hand:
…was not so well versed in understanding Scripture as he was crafty and a vessel of the devil, skilled at instigating scandals…a popular teacher…his teachings began to incite controversy…he made many disciples…his beliefs circulated in the mouths of many….he filled Egypt with tumult and confusion…his ideas we widely accepted…
Moreover, Arius and his followers were great publicists:
…they did not cease, on a daily basis, creating stumbling blocks, with the intention of not only having the saint exiled from his throne, but also from the city, and if possible even to deprive him of life itself…they enlisted whomever they could in Alexandria to defame the bishop…
The righteous very often endure unjust and false slanders. This is a sign to take note of:
…they accused him of crimes…compelling the bishops and priests to hand over a tax…plotting treachery against the Emperor…that Athanasius was avaricious…against the holy archbishop every charge that could be contrived was laid at his door…primarily harshness and violence in dealing with those who took up Ischyras’ case (a man who posed as a priest without ordination, who vacillated between two schismatic groups and the Orthodox church)…reports circulated that Athanasius contracted to have killed [Arsenios, Bishop of Hypsele, who had been bribed to go along with the following plot]…it was alleged that one of the victim’s hands was severed for use in magic ceremonies…this ridiculous rumour was bruited about…threatening, insulting and reviling him, saying, “Magician, swindler, charlatan, hypocrite, mischief-maker!”
The Church of Christ has lived through many confusing moments, when people were unsure what to believe and whom to trust. Let us make these vital decisions with sobriety, based on Scripture, the writings of the Holy Fathers, and the history of the Church, including the lives of the Saints.
Evsevios of Nikomedia and Theognos of Nicaea, filled with notions of their own importance, used all their influence against the advocates of homoousion. On account of the maneuvering and sophistry of Evsevios of Caesarea, many were swayed who went on thinking that they were in accord with the Orthodox view and the Nicene Creed. The substance of the mischievous controversy was, to many, misrepresented and never fully explained.
St Athanasius governed the Church of Alexandria for 46 years. Seventeen of these years, he was exiled from the city, and most his reign passed under the shadow of continuous troubles. But the Church recognises him as one of the greatest saints and confessors of Orthodoxy in Her history.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
On January 14/27, Metropolitan Photios (GOC) presided at the services in honour of St Sava of Serbia at the Monastery “New Kalenich”, the patronal feast of the monastery. Bishop John (ROCA) concelebrated, along with archimandrite Hristifor (FSOC), protopriest Bojan (FSOC), hieromonk Simeon (FSOC), hieromonk Ioannis (GOC), priest Nebojsa (ROCA), priest Alexandar (FSOC) and protodeacon Vasily.
Matins and Divine Liturgy was followed by a procession around the Monastery church and the rite of the Serbian Slava.
Festivities continued for the following two days at the St Sava Festival.
In connection with the recent illegal meeting in New York state in January 2017, the following decrees banning clergy associated with Australia (Archbishop Andronik and Hegumen Andrei) have been issued.
These decrees emphasise the extreme seriousness of the situation, and the dire consequences of disobedience, both for the clergy themselves, and for those lay people who attend the services of the banned clergy.
Unity in the Orthodox Church is based on our practice of love, which we show through obedience. This duty is given to all Church members, from the first to the last.
The surest and safest path for parishioners in this confusing matter is to show obedience to the Sobor of Bishops, and concentrate maximally on prayer and good works, for their own salvation, and for the salvation of us all.
In our modern time, with its modern, distorted understanding of ‘love’ it may be difficult for some to understand traditional Church practice. However, our Orthodox Church practice is not something that can ‘change with the times’. Neither is the Church truly a ‘democratic organisation’ in the modern understanding of that term.
The government of the Church is entrusted to the Bishops.
The Sobor of Bishops, consisting of 12 hierarchs, has discussed the matters troubling our ROCA presently, and has arrived at the decision to ban certain clergy, out of love for these persons, and the hope for their repentance, as well as for the love and safeguarding of all the people.
The surest and safest path for parishioners in this confusing matter is to show obedience to the Sobor of Bishops, and concentrate maximally on prayer and good works for their own salvation, and for the salvation of us all.
It is necessary for Orthodox Christians to exercise great patience and faith in our evil days. Do not allow the evil one to lead you astray, away from the Church of Christ, which He founded and governed through the Holy Apostles, leading Her to this day through their successors, the Bishops of the Church
With love in Christ,
(Bishop of Melbourne)
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Editorial from the “Brotherly Listok”
Communion between the Far East Diocese and the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was restored on the day of the Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the past year (2016). This brought us not only the joy of reunion with many of the same faith on the territory of historical Russia and abroad, but also inevitable anxieties.
Already then, the rift between the Synod headed by Metropolitan Agafangel and a group of clerics and laymen was perceptibly unfolding. The group were accusing the Primate of usurping power and non-canonical actions, while demanding the convention of an extraordinary All-Diaspora Council. On August 27, 2016 Bishops Sophrony and Andronik, along with part of their flocks, announced their non-submission to the ROCA Synod and Metropolitan Agafangel. In his response, the First Hierarch addressed the initiators of the convention of this “All-Diaspora Council”, for the first time using the term “parasynagogue”.
(* Parasynagogue (Greek παρασυναγωγή -. arbitrary gathering) - a form of departure from Orthodoxy, other than division based on a heresy in that it does not apply to dogmatic questions and is the result of a violation of church hierarchal discipline – disobedience to the hierarchy established by God. “The ancients … named such meetings as are drawn up by unruly presbyters or bishops and unwise people - arbitrary gatherings. For example, if someone, being rebuked for sin, is removed from the priesthood, thereafter does not submit to the rules, and himself retains the authority and standing of the priesthood, and if certain others separate with him”. (Saint Basil’s the Great: First Canonical Epistle to Amphilochius of Iconium).)
It should be noted that neither the First Hierarch nor the Synod members had any objection in principle to the convening of an All-Diaspora Council. However, they simply and legitimately insisted that the council be held in compliance with the rules of the Church, in accordance with procedure prescribed in the “Regulations on the ROCA”. However, even then it was visible that the goal of the initiators of strife was not a constructive dialogue in the spirit of Christ’s love with a view to resolving the existing problems, but rather – an escalation of the conflict.
In early September 2016, the “Pre-Council Commission” appeared, which even before any investigation or trial announced that “Metropolitan Agafangel and his Synod, by their erroneous decisions and abuse of power have lost credibility and trust.” In October 2016, the members of this self-appointed Commission sent Vladika Agafangel another appeal, which, in particular, offered the First Hierarch “to resign as Chairman of the Council of Bishops and Synod, keeping the rank of Metropolitan and management of the Odessa diocese” and to “decentralize the Church administration”, creating three autonomous church districts - Ukrainian-Moldovan, Russian, and Abroad, - each controlled by its own Synod. It was not clear what was behind this idea - thoughtlessness or a clear desire to weaken the church structure of the remnant of the former ROCOR.
Soon enough however the issue became clear. At the same time a picture was revealed before us, in which the deepening the split transformed into something more dangerous. On October 12, 2016 representatives of the new schismatic group published a statement on their website to the effect that “in our time … we believe that the universal Church has the form of splintered “fragments”, which have no communion with each other.” Metropolitan Agafangel immediately objected to this, saying that this statement directly falls under the anathema, proclaimed by ROCOR against the ecumenists (1983) “To those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that the Lord’s Church is divided into so-called “branches” which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all “branches” of sects or denomination, and even religions, will be united into one body, …: Anathema.”
At the Council of Bishops, held in Odessa from 25 to 27 October 2016, this theme was developed further. Members of the Council heard a memorandum by Metropolitan Agafangel “On the Heresy of Schism-ecumenism” and concluded that the Bishops’ Council cannot accept this teaching as Orthodox, which claims that the Local Russian Orthodox Church is split into equally-salvific and grace-filled fragments that do not have communion with one another, neither in prayer or administratively, nor communion in the sacraments, and that these fragments together constitute the Local Russian Orthodox Church. This doctrine was considered a particular form of the heresy of Ecumenism.
Meanwhile, the decision of the Bishops’ Council in relation to the formal leaders of this new division, at the time officially retired archbishops Andronik and Sophrony, were most correct, careful and patient. While warning about the inadmissibility of non-canonical meetings and calling for the dissolution the so-called “Pre-Council Commission”, they also invited their Eminences [Andronik and Sophrony], together with the faithful of their group, to participate “in the preparation of a canonical All-Diaspora Council of our whole Church, in accordance with the Regulations of the ROCOR.” To our deep regret this proposal remained unanswered.
In a special “Appeal” the Council of Bishops once again warned the initiators of this unauthorized meeting that, in the event of it convening, “would be an act of schism and visible evidence of falling away from the Church. If this gathering is convened, all who wish to be present, testify that being warned, they have knowingly and willingly separated from the Church; which will be confirmed by the Council of Bishops by a decree prohibiting archbishops Andronik and Sofrony from serving, the prohibition from serving by their respective ruling bishop of all priests who take part in the unlawful gathering, and for all laity who participate - excommunication from Holy Communion; for which a special Conciliar Decree has been issued.
However, no Appeal, neither any open letter could stop the engine of division, which at full steam rushed to its goal. The arbitrary unlawful meeting, composed of people united by non-Orthodox sophistry, disproportionate ambition and pronounced personal dislike of the First Hierarch, was opened on January 11, 2017 in the state of New York. The final warning of the Council of Bishops of ROCA came into force, and another schism was added to the dramatic history of the Church Abroad.
Metropolitan Agafangel in his comments to the sad events noted “there was on obvious pre-programmed path towards a schism right from the beginning. It is a fact that not a single constructive suggestion for preserving unity was brought forward by the parasynagogue. Our suggestions at the joint meeting with the Greeks were rejected. In other words it is obvious that this group did not need anything else, except a split. In this connection I wish to remind you that it is a documented confirmed fact that all divisions in the Russian Church were provoked by the NKVD-KGB-FSB (the schism of 2007 is as yet not confirmed by documents - the names and titles of the real “heroes” are not yet proclaimed). I do not suspect – by virtue of my position and status in the Church, no, I feel and see the action of external forces in our midst, which are interested in our destruction. To break up something, it is necessary to make an effort - this is an axiom. We now have the visible result of this effort.”
Of course, in these words of the First Hierarch has his own reason [свой резон]. Nevertheless, regardless of the nature of these hostile external forces, it is painful to see with our own eyes how yesterday’s fathers and brothers, have been unable to withstand this temptation, and now they undergo malignant spiritually-harmful mutations and leave for “a country far away”, tearing off chunks of flesh from the Mystical Body of Christ. Yet, however deep the bitterness and pain of the current loss, the more clear are the words of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”.
The editors of the “Brotherly Listok” (Vladivostok).
Sunday, January 8, 2017
On the feast of the Nativity of our Lord, the Serbian parish community of Holy Great-Martyr George in Granville (Sydney) had their first full cycle of Divine Services.
The community is part of the Free Serbian Orthodox Church under the omophorion of Bishop Ambrose of Methone, with whose blessing priest Nebojsa Mirkovic (ROCA) celebrated the services for Nativity, blessing the traditional Serbian “Badnjak” oak Christmas tree. On the day of the Nativity, the Divine Liturgy followed.
The Serbian parish community of St George will be celebrating regular Divine Liturgies with the help of Fr Nebojsa at the Serbian memorial hall at 92 Good Street, Granville. For details of times, please contact Fr Nebojsa Mirkovic
On December 19/January 2, the parish of the Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt in Sydney celebrated its Altar feast. Bishop John visiting from Melbourne concelebrated with priest Nebojsa Mirkovic. The Divine Liturgy was followed by the Serbian Slava.
On Sunday 18.12/1.1. Bishop John visited the Greek parish of Sts Cosmas and Damian in Dulwich Hill (Sydney), concelebrating with priest George (GOC) and priest Nebojsa (ROCA).