Fountains in the Desert

Book launch by En Plo Publications in Athens

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This event has been a most humbling experience! The ethos of the two panel speakers, Hieromonk Chrysostomos of Koutloumousiou Monastery, Mount Athos, and Fr. Bogdan-Konstantin Georgeskou, and that of the author himself, Fr. Jonathan Hemmings, permeated all the events. Such love and humility, especially in the face of various trials and tribulations, the least being an airline strike (!) impacting with its last-minute flight cancellations our speakers’ trips, felt like a rare blessing in “the apostasy of our times”. Fr. Seraphim’s Rose warning “Do not be deceived !” “It is later that you think, hasten therefore to do the work of God” is a favourite motto of  Father Jonathan, his spiritual grandchild.

The book presentation proved to be a Panorthodox Synaxis, truly ecumenical! So many Greek, Romanian and English Orthodox friends turned up. En Plo Bookstore was packed out! The occasion provided everybody with the grace of fellowship.

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Hieromonk Chrysostomos, the first panelistsummed it all aptly in the opening sentence of his presentation: “I have not come here to introduce or recommend the book, which needs no such thing, as this is evident to anyone who begins to read it, but I have come here, all the way from Mount Athos, to meet its author!” 

Because “cradle Orthodox” have so much to learn from “Orthodox converts“! (One of the ‘ironies’ of this event was that in the many conversations which followed with priests, academic theologians and lay people, Father Jonathan, himself a ‘convert‘, had to repeatedly ‘defend’ Orthodoxy from ‘cradle Orthodox‘ faithful, from their disillusionment, doubts, and confusion about ‘their’ faith).

For Hieromonk Chrysostomos presentation, “Monasticism as Unity and Overcoming Divisions” go to http://www.pemptousia.gr/video/ierom-chrisostomos-koutloumousianos-monachismos-ine-i-enotita-ke-i-ipervasi-ton-diereseon/

A vignette of the occasion which was indelibly marked in my heart was the author himself, in front of the audience in the packed room, all quiet during Hieromonk Chrysostomos’ presentation, deeply immersed in prayer, bending in humility his head, radiant, otherworldly, silent, and yet so eloquent, so full of the Holy Spirit amidst all this noise and praise in the crowded building. And I write ‘building’, because both floors were packed, and people were also waiting outside the book store too!

The long queue of the author’s spiritual children at the end of the book launch, their love and gratitude was such a heartwarming experience on its own! “And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29) So many memories, of his life and ministry, of his works and his deeds, of love, which will continue in them and in their families. Father Jonathan was himself visibly moved to be with his spiritual children and dearest supporters of the ‘crucified’ Community of the Holy and Life Giving Cross in Lancaster, England and meet new friends in Christ and make further ‘connections’ in the Holy Spirit with those who are part of Christ’s extended family.

 

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The two panel speakers’ presentations were outstanding, and the author impressed the audience with his profound humility, his love for everybody, his wise words, the purity of ‘his’ Orthodoxy, his poetry and his knowledge of the Greek language:

“It is with a profound sense of thanksgiving that in humility I thank you for publishing “Fountains in the Desert.” It is the product of a long lived admiration for those who found the desert to be a treasury of blessings. I have simply woven my own experiences into this mystical landscape. Any worth in it springs from the overflowing love of God for me, a prodigal, and to those whose zeal, patience, kindness and loving example have been spiritual signposts of the faith for my own journey through the desert.

Such salvation is experienced when one is thirsty for the Truth and the saints who Christ sends, provide the living water from which one drinks deeply of the sparkling fresh fountains of our Orthodox Christian faith. I wish to recognise in particular the heaven endowed, grace-filled influences of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony of Sourozh, Archimandrite Barnabas of New Mills, Archimandrite David of Walsingham, Archpriest Michael Harper and Hieroschemamonk Ambrose ( formerly Fr.Alexey Young) the spiritual son of Blessed Seraphim Rose, who chrismated me .

The Apostle Paul writes to the Christians at Ephesus:

Ephesians 5:2

“Walk in the way of love just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

When we drink deeply from these sparkling springs and living waters of Orthodoxy, there is an inevitable outpouring of love to sustain us in our journey and an inexpressible joy to share this life giving water with others who thirst after truth. This is the life of the Church, to share the Gospel.

Luke 13:29

 

29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.

So we have much to do- because for to those who have been given much, much is expected. We rejoice with those returning to the Orthodox Church. We weep with those who find themselves exiled from their lands. We are warmed by the fact that so many of our parishes are microcosms of Pentecost with faithful being welcomed from all over the world regardless of nationality. We thank God that we witness strength of faith and growth in His Church and we ask empowerment for the apostolic mission set before us to bring God’s love to a hungry and thirsty world.

The glory of God is revealed in joy. The mercy of God is experienced in suffering. The grace of God is discovered in fellowship. The power of God is realised in miracles. The love of God is manifested in mission. Our dialogue is with heaven, even in the deserts of our cities where we encounter ourselves, the evil one and God. Christ only speaks one language and that is the language of love for His creation. May His love give voice to our faith.” (excerpts from the author’s presentation)

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Fr. Jonathan‘s interview following the booklaunch has been videotaped by pemptousia.com and will appear shortly.

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The Orthodox Christian Parish of the Holy and Life ­Giving Cross at Lancaster (United Kingdom) belongs to the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland, is a relatively small parish led by Fr. Jonathan, but with faithful from more than half a dozen nationalities, a ‘crucified’ parish, literally ‘on the move’ for over 20 years. After 20 years of using borrowed premises (a quite typical situation for ‘convert’ Orthodox parishes at the UK), they are renting a former Anglican church St Martin’s of Tours Church from Friday to Sunday evening, in order to serve the needs of the Orthodox Christians in the Lancaster area.  To this end, they are making an appeal to raise funds to cover the rent and other needs of the Church on a permanent basis. Apart from your much needed prayers, you can find information on how to contribute to their fund raiser here. The proceedings from this Greek translation of the book or the English original will be likewise used to cover basic needs of the Church. The Holy and Life ­Giving Cross at Lancaster is a lively parish which enjoys Christian fellowship, having meals together and taking part in pilgrimages to Orthodox monasteries, churches, ancient Christian sites and other worship places (photos), produce a newsletter each month with their news and spiritual food for thought, and is engaged in a number of holy tasks.

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