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Pentecost at Gerardville

9 June 2014

On the Monday of Pentecost Archbishop Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria visited the Monastery of the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Gerardville, on the western edge of the City of Tshwane, in Gauteng province, South Africa. Since the death of Father Nazarius (Pribojan) in 2008 there have been no monks living there permanently. Archbishop Damaskinos had not visited before, but came to see, and to discuss Fr Elias Palmos’s plans to revive the monastery and develop the site (of 25 hectares) as a mission centre.

The clergy with Archbishop Damaskinos after the Divine Liturgy in St Demetrius Church. Deacon Stephen nHayes, Fr Elias Palmos, Archbishop Damaskinos, Fr George Cocotos, Archimandrite Athanasius Akunda

The clergy with Archbishop Damaskinos after the Divine Liturgy in St Demetrius Church. Deacon Stephen Hayes, Fr Elias Palmos, Archbishop Damaskinos, Fr George Cocotos, Archimandrite Athanasius Akunda

Fr Elias inherited some money from his father, and set up a trust to buy the land to be used for the church, and the Holy Community of New Sion to administer the centre on behalf of the church, with provision for the revival of the monastery, and future plans for a theological school, a mission centre, and a parish of the Archdiocese, using St Demetrius Church, the biggest church on the site.

The congregation at St Demetrius on Pentecost Monday, 2014, with Archbishop Damaskinos

The congregation at St Demetrius on Pentecost Monday, 2014, with Archbishop Damaskinos

The Feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit seems an appropriate occasion to pray for the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into the place and those who are living there now, and will, we hope, with the blessing of Archbishop Damaskinos, do so in future.

The monastery site is on a portion of the farm Vlakplaas, and in the past another part of the farm was used as a place of torture and murder. We hope that the prayers of the people here will cleanse the land of its ugly past.

Archbishop Damaskinos has a tour of the monastery site.

Archbishop Damaskinos has a tour of the monastery site.

There is enough land at the site for many different kinds of activities without disturbing the peace of the monastery. Some of the celibate clergy are hoping to live there soon, to restart the monastic life, and help develop the centre. There is room for several different expressions of monastic life, including male and female monasteries, but for the immediate future we hope there will be enough people to reestablish the monastic life in one community.

Archbishop Damaskinos giving ikon cards to some of the children who were at the service

Archbishop Damaskinos giving ikon cards to some of the children who were at the service

The parish of St Demetrius has been in existence for some time, and serves those those live to the south and west pf Pretoria, including those at the children’s home in Atteridgeville. Eventually it is hoped to build a church in Atteridgeville too, and indeed the foundations have been laid, but in the mean time the congregation in Atteridgeville has readers services, and are brought to St Demetrius by taxi for the Divine Liturgy.

With the possibility of more priests living at the monastery, it will also be possible to have more regular services at the parish church of St Demetrius.

It is also hoped, with the blessing of Archbishop Damaskinos, to have youth gatherings, to bring together young people from different parishes, and have some teaching on the Orthodox Christian faith. It would also be a place for people of all ages from different parishes to come together, and Archbishop Damaskinos spoke of the possibility of holding such a celebration later this year.

When the Most High came down and confused the tongues
He divided the nations
but when He distributed the tongues of fire
He called all to unity
therefore with one voice we glorify the all-holy Spirit
(Kontakion for Pentecost)

The Monastery of the Descent of the Holy Spirit is a place for people of all nations, and it was fitting that on the feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit people of several different nations and languages gathered.

St Demetrius Church, the biggest church at the monastery

St Demetrius Church, the biggest church at the monastery

Please pray for the Archbishop and the Archdiocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and for the Holy Community of New Sion, that through their efforts, guided by the Holy Spirit, Orthodox monasticism may be established in southern Africa.

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