Monday, December 17, 2012


The Russian Catholic parish in Melbourne is flourishing, and has just had the great joy of the ordination of two of its members: Anton Usher to the diaconate, and Justin McDonnell to the subdiaconate – they are both good and devout men, much learned about all matters liturgical, musical and spiritual, and will certainly be a support and ornament to their pastor, Mitred Archpriest Lawrence Cross.

The ordinations took place on Sunday; I was able to fly over to Melbourne for the weekend, and stayed with Justin and his wife Lydia (whom now I address as Hypodiaconissa).  Come Sunday morning, we drove up from the outer suburb where they live, about 40 km (25 miles) to the Russian Catholic church of Holy Trinity-St Nicholas, in the inner suburb of St Kilda East.  This is a former congregationalist church recently purchased and extensively renovated for the use of the Russian Catholic parish, thanks to a most generous grant from the Vatican.  The ladies of the parish were already preparing the celebratory lunch to be had much, much later on... Soon enough, the choir arrived, much supplemented for the occasion by excellent singers from around Melbourne. (The singing was nearly all in English, save for some of the litanies and the Cherubikon.)  Yours truly was employed in menial tasks suited to his capacity, such as peeling hardboiled eggs and putting up party decorations.

His Excellency Robert Rabbat, Bishop of the Greek Melkite Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand came down from Sydney to celebrate the Divine Mysteries. (Unfortunately, the Russian Catholics have had no bishop of their own for many years now).  Both after the subdiaconal ordinations, and before the final prayer at the Divine Liturgy, the good bishop addressed us briefly (Archpriest Lawrence having been delegated to preach the sermon): I was most impressed to hear a bishop so conversant with the Gospels, and so spiritual in his understanding thereof - what a blessing! As he exhorted the congregation, by our prayers we ought help bear the Cross with Anton and Justin, rather than crucify them, as parishioners can.

(I ought add that two Ukrainian priests concelebrated with the Bishop, alongside Archpriest Lawrence, and two deacons attended, one Roman, one Ukrainian Rite - the latter undertaking the deacon's parts, being more adept at the requisite ceremonies.)

Worship began with the Third Hour (mainly in Church Slavonic, but with the Psalms in English) at 10:20 am. His Excellency entered the church for vesting at 10:30 am, an episcopal throne and bema having been erected for the occasion in the midst of the nave. That done, he proceeded to confer the lectorate on Anton; Justin had previously received this minor order. Next, the two men were ordained subdeacons together.

After that, Hierarchical Divine Liturgy began; I noted by my watch that the Epistle was read 90 minutes after we had began. Strangely, or not so strangely, this most elaborate and lengthy worship did not seem to deter at all the 60 or more parishioners and friends who were filling up the nave. I was next to a friend, a seminarian of the local Roman archdiocese; my only complaint was increasingly sore feet as we stood for the whole liturgy.

Most movingly, the order of the diaconate was conferred upon Anton in the appointed manner to me until then unknown - he was ordained directly after the Eucharistic Prayer, just before the Litany leading into the Lord's Prayer. When he came forth after Communion to lead the litany of thanksgiving, all were most glad and edified to see him our new deacon. The Liturgy concluded at 1:35 pm, some three and a quarter hours after our corporate worship commenced.

The ensuing festal lunch was most welcome, as was conversation with many friends new and old.  One of the Latin-Mass-goers who had come along for the occasion (many being friends of Justin) remarked to the effect that the Roman Liturgy moves the mind, but the Byzantine the heart.  I must say, as a Roman who loves the East, that the Divine Liturgy has a power to uplift to heaven the heart even of this poor sinner.

Ἄξιος! Многая Лета!

1 comment:

Collin Michael Nunis said...

Hi Joshua,

despite the most unfortunate occurrence of the Russian Catholic Church not having its own hierarchy, the Russian Catholic Church has always enjoyed the friendship of the Melkite Catholic Church since its establishment in the late 19th century. After all, it was the Melkites that incardinated the pioneering Russian Catholics into communion with Rome.

That being said, Fr. Lawrence himself serves our Melkite Eparchy with much diligence, dedication, and humility. His input and wisdom in many areas of the Christian East is a blessing to all of us. Fr. Brian Kelty, the other concelebrant (Ukrainian, but serves at the Melkites), is also another amazing example. We Australians are very lucky to have these wonderful and talented priests.