Sunday, April 29, 2012

Christ is Risen! Baptism of Philothei - Ordination of a New Priest

Christ is Risen!  

More and more the joy of Holy Pascha is like the light that comes to us from the tomb of Christ... no way to understand in earthly ways how it all comes about.  We struggle through Great Lent,  home sickness during the holidays, and being in the Southern Hemisphere.  Then we come to those days of anticipation, the latter of Holy Week and there we are, the next thing we know, joy and love are a part of everything we do, and say for Easter!!!

This year Father Paul was given one of those Pascha Candles that are really 33 thin candles wrapped together.   Big flame!  It is not like in the States where everyone waits for the Altar boys to bring the light to the congregation symbolizing the apostles who took the Good News of the Resurrection to the world.  Our people leave the pews and join the altar boys! A little chaotic, but also full of good intentions and real joy.

The weather was lovely and we all went outside to the front of the church to hear the Resurrection Gospel message and to sing Christ is Risen!  Χριστος Ανεστι!  I have a friend in Albuquerque who when she saw this tradition for the first time as an adult said "This is so beautiful".  I couldn't help but to think that she was experiencing a mystical beauty at that time. So I have remembered her every year since then when we go outside to declare the Resurrection of Christ.

 Father Paul, before the Liturgy began, asked as many as are able to try to stay until the very end.  Honestly throughout Holy Week, our attendance for the services must have increased 4 fold.  We were like a Christian family.  Really, one of the days of Holy Week the group that came didn't seem to want to leave, and they sat in the pews and talked in such a lovely way. It was so old world and there was so much hospitality in each other's conversations.

This year we had a lovely donation of Holy Week Books for the benefit of the community.  Our congregation had loved having them from the time that Father Nick Grenias was here, so it was special for those who didn't get a chance to buy one a few years back.   Just as important is the fact that we could give some to the church in Fiji, and to the catechumens and newly baptized from around New Zealand. 

I may have mentioned it in earlier posts that the Coptic Ethiopian church worships in our church with tne blessings of His Eminence. Before the Anastasi service had begun I had set the table for dinner, the traditional Magheritsa and some of our family style tiropites the way they are made on Lipso.  I insisted on adding two places to our table,  but I had not idea who would join us. I was just hoping.  And then during the Liturgy I saw a few of the people that I had in mind to invite leaving one by one until none of them were left. Mostly I was thinking of those who were living alone or who had recently come from Greece.

It looked like no one was going to be available to join us when we heard cars driving up in the parking lot.  At first I thought that I was going tell these poor folks that we were finished with the service and that they missed it.  It was however Father Minichel the Ethiopian Priest and His Deacon and a few others to bring their liturgical items back to the church.  On Sundays we are able to share the church because they are willing to start their Orthros at 5:30 am.  But for Easter we would need to use the church all at the same time, so they rent a Baptist church in the neighborhood for Easter services.  

Father and Deacon agreed to come and have Magheritsa with us.   It was great fun. One of the things we love to do is talk about the things that we have liturgically in common.  They taught us to say Christos Anesti in Ethiopian...  Can't remember it now, but they had a good laugh listening to us try and try to say it right.

So it was Easter Morning, and much to my shock there was a call from my cousin Manuel who lives in Australia.  He was visiting his future sister in law here in Auckland with his fiance Kristina.  Well of course we had to have them over, and they came while the Easter party was going on downstairs.  So, we sat together for awhile.....
..... and told stories....

....... and posed for yet another photo just to make sure we had one for his mother!!!  


We have a wonderful monastery here in Levin, New Zealand. The Holy Archangels, Saint Basil and Saint Amphilochios are commemorated in these structures.  It is like a triplicate church. They have 3 chapels there.  Unique and special indeed.  There is a great story behind the purchase of the monastery property and the people who make up the community there.   Right now I count that we have three monks living there, hard working and very good to us all.  There are three others who have responsibilities elsewhere like Fiji and the Metropolis. They also have a community of catechumens.  If you look at the Metropolis website you will see some of the newly baptized in photos there.  We were blessed to be there for the Baptism of Philothei.

Philothei's Baptism

Philothei waiting: the right time to re-enter the sanctuary.

A couple of weeks before Easter we visited the monastery for the baptism of a woman who has a beautiful life story. She grew up in New Zealand, with a great love for Christ and Holy Scripture.  Known throughout Levin for her giving spirit, she has been a lamp on the road to faith for many people through the Bible studies that she leads.  Father Paul met  her in Levin when his father was visiting.  Philothei had given them a ride to Wellington to catch their plane. Father  Paul was so happy to be there for her Baptism.  His Eminence made sure of it.  Father Meletios has the honor of providing her catechism, however, His Eminence, because of how small we are here, and because of his great
love for his flock, knows everyone who comes into the church though the monastery under his omophorion. Philothei is no exception, and he has blessed her to press on like a good soldier. She will

It was a brisk morning,  The water had to be warmed
in the monastery kitchen and hauled to the church.
continue to teach her Bibile study but now with the open understanding that she is an Orthodox.  After the baptism, I had a brief conversation with her and she said something I really did not expect, but was happy to hear.  She said that it never occurred to her that she didn't have proper authority to teach Holy Scripture until she met the men of our monastery and His Eminence.  They never really said anything to her about it but by their example, perhaps that of asking for a blessing before doing anything, she was able to put her teaching in a different perspective.  So she will continue to teach at her old church with the blessings of His Eminence.
His Eminence officiates at many adult baptisms Here
with Father Konstantinos assisting.

Her joy that day was infectious.  She looked
radiant even from the moment that she exited the baptismal font.   Her quiet joyful smile was what I remember the most.  She had an instant sense of hospitality from the moment she emerged from the fountain.  The Baptism was done within the context of the Liturgy, so it was interesting to see how she began her participation in the Liturgy almost as a guest, but ended it as if she were one of the hostesses.  It was by far one of my favorite Baptisms so far.
One of the things I love about our Archbishop and Gheronta is his sense of balance.   I can't tell you what a privilege it is to be in his care.  His sense of priorities is most other-worldly.  His insights are fixed in an actuality that we can't always access. There we were trying with all our might to pay attention to the right things at the right time for the baptism:  getting the right photo, making sure that the doors were closed at the proper time, filling the font, mindful of the experience of other people around us so as to respect, trying to lend a hand when needed.  It was all quite appropriate, but he as if effortless,

 was able to do it with a blessed stillness.   Anyone
of us could look at him at anytime during the process and if there was any question in our minds of where we needed to be or what to do, he had the answer.  He knew just when to gather all of Philothei's relatives for a photo in such a way that it seemed they were all there  nearly ready for a pose.  Or when we were outside afterward drinking our coffee, he didn't want anything. Instead he looked for these simple charming ways to minister to people individually, and at the same time made them feel significant

 to what was going on around them...   all without interfering.  What a gift!  What a valuable talent!  My favorite part of watching it was the way he connected to the children. It is always with a silent humility that he seems to be able to provide just what they need, especially as they were playing in the pond with the little boat. That boat was his idea. The pond is like a circular river. The boat just goes around and around and the kids love it. He loves to see them on it, and he never worries that they will fall in.  Georgios inevitably does, and most times he is the only one who does. I think it has to do with the fact that he doesn't care if his shoes get wet. Neither does His Eminence.


His Eminence has ordained a new priest, Father Konstantinos, who comes to us from Greece. He has a lot of experience in Church life as he had lived on Mount Athos for many years. He is also a published author on the life of Saint Kosmas The Aitolos.  The ordination was lovely.  Father Paul was there to help. I got to chant along a professional chanter from Greece, an elderly man who really reads byzantine notation as he sings.   It was like chanting with the big guys.  He was very gracious towards me and I really appreciated his generous kindness. 

Father Konstantinos will be serving between the Metropolis offices and Fiji.  Axios!!  I wish I had better photos of him in his Priest's vestments, but we ran out of battery. 


Athair Ambrois said...

Dear Presvytera, do you know the story that the monastery church at Levin stands on the very spot where the first New Zealand Orthodox monk was born. It was his family home and farm and the family homestead once occupied where the church now stands. He died 5 years ago. Rassophore monk Nicholas. Buried in the Levin cemetery. Please remember him in your holy prayers.

Athair Ambrois said...

Another remarkable thing is that the builder of the Levin monastery church is the brother-in-law of Fr Nicholas and 20 years earlier he built the Serbian monastery church in Kiwitea north of Fielding.

Presvytera Katerina and Family said...

Yes I have heard this account. I did not know the name of the monk, but Father Paul does, and we were just speaking of this yesterday with Father Konstantinos the newly ordained. I think this account gives all of us servants of the church here an added sense of fortitude. Thank you for your comment.