“FEASTS OF GLORY: IN EAST AND WEST”
On Tuesday 16 June, in company with a large group from the Catholic and Russian Orthodox communities, as well as Mercy sisters, representatives of other religious orders and fellow academics of Sister Birute Arendarcikas rsm, I had the privilege of attending the launch of Sr Birute’s book, Feasts of Glory: in East and West. The book launch took place in the Cathedral Hall of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, in Albion Street, Brunswick East. Many of the icons presented in the book are the work of the Russian Orthodox iconographer Antonina Ganin and located in this Cathedral where they can be viewed.
The event was hosted by the Very Rev. Assoc. Prof. Shane Mackinlay, Master of Catholic Theological College, Melbourne under the auspices of Catholic Theological College, where Birute lectures, and the University of Divinity. The book was launched by Very Rev Denis Stanley, Episcopal Vicar for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. After the welcome by the Archpriest, Father Nicholas Karipoff, we were enthralled by a brief concert of Russian Orthodox liturgical music sung in Slavonic by a four man unaccompanied choir. It was a real pleasure to listen to the strong male voices wending their way through the intricate and delicate harmonies of various seasonal motets.
Father Stanley in his speech spoke about the power of images which are such a powerful tool of evangelisation. He said of the images in the book that they ‘confirm what sacred images have always been called – windows into heaven.’ He continued, ‘The power of the image and a few well-chosen words can be a work of evangelisation. It can be a work that makes us stop and listen to the whisper of the Holy Spirit.’
He noted the contrast between Eastern and Western art with eastern icons radiating stillness and great symbolism and western paintings and sculptures exhibiting naturalism and energy. In his concluding remarks he reminded us that the Eastern and Western Churches are like two lungs breathing the essence of Christianity and that one cannot live without the other.
Sr Birute’s academic interest is Ecumenism, in particular the relationship between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. In her address, Birute related that this book is in a way an answer to a question she first met in her early theological studies: Who are the Eastern Christians? She said, ‘As a result of my study, I came to a deeper appreciation of how both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches are supported by the one mystical life, which is grounded in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, revealed in Jesus Christ. They, truly, are sister churches. An implication for me of this relationship for future research was to examine those things that make them true sister Churches’.
It was a long journey in her quest to seek an answer, leading to further study culminating in a PhD where she examined the place of Mary, the Mother of God in the two traditions. She also revealed that her book is going to be published in Russia soon – a great accolade!
This is not a big book but it is a beautiful one. I was going to write that I have not finished reading it but I have to change that. It is not a book to read. It is one which leads you to ponder, contemplate and pray.
In format, it is basically an examination of the major feasts of Christianity such as the Nativity, the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Transfiguration, the Assumption and some titles of Mary. Each title and accompanying icon or picture is amplified by well chosen excerpts from parts of the Orthodox Divine Services or the Latin Church Eucharistic readings and accompanying quotations from eminent theologians, both East and West. It was lovely to see included the traditional picture of Our Lady of Mercy, the original of which is in the church of St Pudenziana in Rome, accompanied by an icon known as The “Reigning” Icon of the Virgin Mother of God which it greatly resembles.
I wholeheartedly recommend that you add this book to your personal library. Birute is to be congratulated and certainly the several Sisters of Mercy present at the launch felt very proud of her, as we all are.
Photos: Adele Howard rsm
L-R: Dr Frances Baker rsm, Deputy Master of Catholic Theological College (CTC), Melbourne, University of Divinity; Archpriest Nicholas Karipoff, Rector of Holy Protection Parish, East Brunswick, Victoria; Dr Birute Arendarcikas rsm, Lecturer Department of Systematic Theology CTC and Pastoral Assistant at the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church in Melbourne; Very Rev. Assoc. Prof. Shane Mackinlay, Master of Catholic Theological College, Melbourne, University of Divinity & Very Rev. Denis Stanley EV Episcopal Vicar for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations.
Back row. L-R: Srs Frances Baker rsm and Margaret Broadbent
Middle Row. L-R: Srs Helen Delaney, Mary Geason, Carmel McCormick rsm, Margaret McHugh
Front row: L-R: Srs Mary Stainsby, Birute Arendarcikas, Faye Kelly (Community Leader South C)