Holy Hierarch John, Pray to God for us!

A few days ago I visited the Kopan Monastery a few miles outside of Kathmandu and up into the hills.  It is one of the well known Tibetan Buddhist monasteries here in the valley.

In the monastery garden.

In the monastery garden.

There are a number of similarities between Tibetan Buddhism and Orthodoxy; more than I will mention here (and of course, there are great differences!).  It’s interesting to note that their shrines are built on the relics of their saints, similar to how we consecrate our temple altars on the relics of our saints.

One of the shrines in the garden.

One of the shrines in the garden.

Kopan shrines 2Like the Orthodox, the Buddhists, both laity and monastic, use prayer ropes.  I was recently asked why I was using a Buddhist prayer rope.  Showing them the Cross on my prayer rope, I then had the opportunity to share something about our practice of the Jesus Prayer.

Like our Orthodox ascetical practice, Buddhist asceticism includes fasting and prostrations.  I often see Buddhists and Hindus touching their heads and then their chests when they pass by one of their temples.  It reminds me of our Orthodox practice of crossing ourselves when we pass by an Orthodox Church.

Young monks on the computer (not one of our monastic practices) under the watchful eye of the Dalai Lama's photo.

Young monks on the computer (not one of our monastic practices) under the watchful eye of the Dalai Lama’s photo.

I sent some pictures of the monastery to family members and also to our Bishop George.  Writing to him I commented that I really longed for an Orthodox Church.  The most difficult part of being a missionary here is being alone and without a parish.  Presbytera Marilyn spent 4 1/2 months here and we were able to serve liturgies together.  What a blessing.  However, she has departed for America for the remainder of the year and so there can be no more liturgies.  But even when we served together, I missed a vibrant parish.  In response to my email, His Grace was kind enough then to send me these pictures:

The Kursk Root icon of the Theotokos.

The Kursk Root icon of the Theotokos.

Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral in San Francisco.

Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral in San Francisco.

The reliquary of St. John Maximovitch

The reliquary of St. John Maximovitch

 

Glory to God.  Here in Nepal, today is the Feast Day of our Holy Hierarch John, who is also the Patron of the Mission to Nepal.  O Holy Hierarch, Father John, speedy helper amid misfortunes, pray to God for us! – Fr. S.

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An Orthodox Pilgrimage

Umesh during an earlier class.

Umesh during a break in our lessons

Sometimes the most interesting conversations develop in language class.  One word leads to another and before you know it, something entirely unexpected evolves.

This morning Umesh made some statement and I commented in agreement “पक्का हो” (pakkaa ho)  It means “that’s for sure” or “that’s for certain.”  I then asked how one says “that is true.”  That led me to ask “what is the word for ‘truth’ ” which in turn led me to think of the all important question: Who (not what) is the Truth?  So I asked Umesh to write out the name Jesus, “येशु” (yeshu).  Then, what is the word for truth (satetaa).

For the next hour our conversation covered such subjects as what is an Orthodox Saint, who is the patron saint of my Nepali mission, how many saints are there, what are the differences between Orthodox worship and Protestant worship, what are Orthodox hymns like, are there new Orthodox hymns, and on and on it went.

Umesh made the interesting observation that the few times he visited a Protestant service it was like a Western Rock & Roll concert.  It left him cold and he said even if he had entered with a desire to worship, that desire was taken out of his heart by Rock & Roll music.  There was no sense of holiness or reverence toward God.  He was surprised and confused by this.

He observed that the Protestants seemed to be using the ways and means of the World, but that the World was always changing, and so the Protestants must also always being changing and following the World.  How much is lost in such change he wondered.  He himself brought up the newness and novelty of Protestantism, coming nearly 1,600 years after the founding of the one Church (whose Feast we just celebrated last Pentecost Sunday).

Later I asked him for the dates of the Dashai and Tihar festivals this year.  I explained that some Orthodox believers wanted me to take them on a pilgrimage to Greece to visit the churches and monasteries.  I explained that I had once lived in Greece and that I had taken many people there on pilgrimage.  He immediately said, “Take me!  Please take me!”  I was really surprised by this, though I had once thought how I wished I could take Umesh to Mt. Athos.  I asked “are you serious?”  “Yes,” he replied.  “I really want to go!”

However, from that moment of hopeful expectation, his countenance fell a bit.  It is very difficult for Nepalis to get visas to other countries.  Most foreign governments believe that any Nepali who travels abroad will remain illegally in the country and become a financial liability.  So in the end, Umesh was not very hopeful of being able to get a visa.  It is a long and difficult process.  The former Hindu Priest, Shubhas, was never able to get a visa to visit Greece or Russia.

To complicate matters, Greece does not have a consulate here in KTM.  Russia however has a large embassy.  Perhaps a visa for Umesh could be arranged to Russia with the help of some Russian clergy there in Moscow.

Please pray that the Lord will open the doors for Umesh to make a pilgrimage to an Orthodox country.  At the moment, he is very interested in the Orthodox Faith, but has very little idea of what the Orthodox Christian Faith is.  He needs to visit Orthodox churches and monasteries.  He needs to “taste and see.”  May God grant His blessing. – Fr.S.

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Feast of Pentecost

AltarThis morning Divine Liturgy was served here for the Feast of Pentecost.  Pentecost recalls the Lord sending the Holy Spirit upon his disciples.  It commemorates the birth of the Church.

With us this morning was Kirollos, a Coptic Orthodox Christian from Egypt.  Kirollos is the third Coptic Christian to visit me here in Kathmandu in the past four months.  The Coptic Christians are keen to start a church here in Nepal.  These 3 young men are zealous for their faith and desire to give their time and expenses toward mission work.  The problem for them so far is that they are unable to find a Coptic priest who is willing to come here to plant a church.

How ironic for me.  Here I am a priest, desiring to plant an Orthodox church here in Kathmandu, but as yet, there are no other Orthodox willing to join the effort of church planting in this country.

Sadly, the Coptic Church is not in communion with the Orthodox Churches and so these young men and I are not able to work together toward the same goal.  I pray that our own Orthodox churches will raise up men and women willing to “go and make disciples of all the nations. . .”  Their help is needed here in this Hindu country.  May God hear my prayer and grant his blessing. – Fr.S.

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