DIOCESE OF SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND: May 1, 2007
The weekend of April 28 and 29, 2007, will be remembered by many forever. These were two unforgettable days, not only in the life of the Orthodox community of Brisbane, but of every person who partook of these celebrations.
The celebrations began with a vigil on Friday, April 27, with the arrival of the Holy Kursk-Root Icon at the Parish of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God for a matins service conducted according to Paschal typicon. This alone was a rare occurrence for some. It was a very heartfelt service. The rector of the Parish, Father Michael Klebansky, officiated together with father Deacon John Weir, who was to be ordained priest the next day. On the right kliros sang a male voice choir made up of the rest of the clergy of Brisbane, parishioners and guests. The service began with the meeting of the Holy Icon and our Archbishop Hilarion. Children stood by the steps and threw flowers on the ground over which the Holy Icon would be carried.
The Liturgy, on the next day, was officiated by Archbishop Hilarion himself. People had gathered early that morning to greet the Holy Icon and to pray at the Liturgy at which there would be an ordination to the priesthood. This was an exciting event for Brisbane, as the last ordination to the priesthood was approximately 25 years ago. At this Liturgy, all of the clergy concelebrated with the Archbishop. For the deacons of the Rocklea Parish, it was an emotional occasion as one of their number was going into the Priesthood. At the appropriate moment after the Cherubic hymn, the ordination began. Vladyka read the prayers of ordination and then led the newly-ordained priest John to the Royal doors exclaiming “Axios!” This was resoundingly repeated thrice by all the clergy and then by the choir, responding on behalf of the congregation. The Liturgy then continued in the usual manner. After the end of the Liturgy, Vladyka gave the Holy Cross to father John to accept the congratulations of the congregation.
The sisterhood of the Parish had prepared a wonderful lunch for all those present, something that they are famous for. At the lunch, Father Gabriel delivered a very heartfelt speech. He said in conclusion that if we wanted to help a priest, then we should pray for him, for if God is with him, nothing is frightening. He also welcomed Father John, who is being transferred as second priest to the Cathedral of St Nicholas, to service the growing English-speaking flock. Everyone who was present remarked on the strong feeling of “oneness of mind.”
A short service was conducted just after the lunch by Vladyka. It was a moleben for the sisterhood of the Parish to bless their work. This service, conducted before the Holy Icon, was especially warm and personal since there was no one else in church but the clergy and the sisterhood.
That afternoon, everyone gathered once again at St Nicholas Cathedral for the all- night vigil. By this time, additional clergy and visitors had arrived from Sydney and Victoria. The Holy Icon arrived a little earlier than Vladyka and was greeted with the singing of the troparion to the Icon. Again, all the clergy concelebrated together with Vladyka and the visiting clergy. A special highlight of the vigil was the singing of the megalynarion to the Icon. The combined voice of 10 clergy was moving, as was the moment when all the clergy sang the second repetition of the hymn “Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ.” Truly, such occasions are rare, and unforgettable, leaving an imprint on everyone's heart.
On the Sunday morning, the Holy Icon arrived early to give everyone the opportunity to venerate it prior to the Liturgy. The service began with the greeting of Vladyka Hilarion. There was to be another ordination to the priesthood, and the knowledge of this made the atmosphere in the Church fill with joyous anticipation.
After the vesting of the Hierarch, at the sixth hour, Vladyka Hilarion tonsured Vasiliy Konstantinidis to Reader to serve at St Nicholas Cathedral. The hours then continued. During Liturgy, when came the time for the ordination of Deacon Gabriel Lapardin, Vladyka placed the aer on the head of Fr Gabriel. Fr Gabriel then proceeded to the middle of the Church to await him time. When the great entrance concluded, Deacon Alexander Borodin and Deacon Konstantin Semovskih led Fr Gabriel to the Royal Doors, as they had done the day before for Fr John Weir. So began the ordination of Fr Gabriel to the priesthood. At the end, Vladyka led the newly-ordained priest to the Royal Doors and exclaimed, “Axios!” to which all the clergy replied, "Axios!" thrice, followed by the response from the choir.
At the end of Liturgy, Vladyka Hilarion gave a sermon and upon finishing, made some announcements about the adjustments to clergy placements in Brisbane. Vladyka then gave the Holy Cross to Fr Gabriel to give to the congregation and accept their congratulations. After Liturgy everyone present stayed for the lunch offered by the sisterhood of St Nicholas Cathedral. Fr George, the elder brother of Fr Gabriel, made a special speech in which he underlined the role that the matushka plays in the priest's life. He stated that if both of them kept their vows that they made at their marriage then God would help them carry their Cross through to the end. A few people from those present expressed their joy at receiving father Gabriel in St Seraphim's Parish and that he would have their full support.
That evening there was a moleben with an akathist to the Theotokos served by 5 priests and 2 deacons. It was good to see all the clergy of Brisbane serving together. After the service was finished many people commented that they did not wish to leave. The presence of the Mother of God through Her Icon had warmed our hearts this weekend and made us all closer and rejuvenated.
Everyone left feeling a sense of regeneration and oneness. People also commented on feeling lucky to have experienced such a weekend of prayer and Grace.
Most Holy Theotokos save and protect us!!!
A participant of the festivities.