This year in preparation for 2019, I participated in a Russian Orthodox community gathering for young people in Melbourne city. The conferences were about the wisdom of the Holy Fathers of the Church. Here are some notes and photos to share of time spent together.
On modernisation of the Church
The idea behind adjusting the original Christian practices to modern time can be summarised by the oxymoron of ‘We have to change in order to stay the same’. However we know that our relationship with God doesn’t improve with technological advances or new ways of thought. The further we move away from the past, the less authentic our faith becomes.
Through an engaging activity Fr. Gabriel from Brisbane explained that in order to understand what was written in the Scriptures thousands of years ago, we need to refer to the Church Fathers not the modern thought or even interpreting meaning by ourselves. Self-explanation of the Holy Scriptures can lead to great misconceptions.
How did the Church Fathers pray?
By making the sign of the cross, by venerating icons, burning incense, candles. By believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that the Body and Blood of Christ is a Sacrament, by believing the Mother of God to be a Virgin etc.
It is always about passing down the truth not about inventing it; or as St. John Chrysostom says: ignorance of scriptures is the cause of all evils.
What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?
Consolidating Greek philosophy and Divine Revelation is the same as asking weather we can accept reasoning and science together with religious beliefs. Very interesting topic discussed in detail by Father Nicholas from Melbourne (Brunswick Church).
Prayer is very important to all of us. We all need God and we are all dependent on his love. Praying about important things can cause pain and these issues might be the ones where we need most healing. They can help acknowledge where prayer is needed most and help us learn about ourselves and about God’s plan for our lives.
Being Lithuanian, I am often asked especially by other Lithuanians, how is it possible that you are in frequent contact with Russian people and don’t feel negative emotions toward them. It was just recently that my country became independent from the Soviet oppression (1991) and the wounds of scars are still very visible in some Lithuanian families especially those whose members were tortured and killed during the persecutions.
It is not difficult for me to work with love and pray with the Russian community because over the last years I gained awareness that in fact it is just out of pain that people tend to generalise cross culturally. By far, not all Russians are supporters of the oppressive political systems and most importantly that even the Russians were persecuted by the Russians!
In fact during this retreat I learned that before going off to other countries the Russian Communists killed over 18 million people just in Russia itself! In other words, they also carry this wound and even worse because those political leaders responsible for so many innocent deaths were in fact of their own country.
Surely healing from the wounds of trauma takes time, generations of time… But the love of God remains and is active in us, especially those who seek him with a pure heart, who wish to forgive and allow him to work in us. If one person hurts us, we are not going to hate all of humanity. Same here, knowing that we are all sinners and children of the same Father, we can and should get along!
During the lectures we learned that the Holy Fathers endured very similar struggles and over many years found answers, found paths that we can follow towards a life of truth and salvation. Following their advice gives us a stepping stone, a heads up, not to get distracted from what is truly important and necessary to live an authentic Christian life.
Wishing everyone a wonderful year, filled with FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE!