His Eminence Archbishop Sergios, Metropolitan Bishop of Cape Town, arrived in Durban on Saturday 5 December, straight after returning to South Africa from Egypt where he had been attending the Holy Synod in Alexandria. As there is no permanent priest in Durban, he officiated at the Service of the Holy Eucharist for the Feast of Saint Nicholas, held at the Church of Saint Nicholas, which was established in 2004. The service included an Artoclasia in honour of Saint Nicholas, the Patron Saint of the Church and Orthodox Community in KZN and also the recently- canonised Saint Porphyrios who fell asleep on 2 December.
A memorial service was also held for deceased members of the community, which included the 40-day memorial for the late Fotini Lambropoulos, who was well known for her dedication to the church and her active participation at the Orthodox Mission in Pietermaritzburg.
The service was attended by Mr Ioannis Ioannou, Honorary Consul for Greece, Mr Savvas Stylianou, Honorary Consul for Cyprus and Mr Pantelis Elefteriou, the newly-elected Chairman of the Hellenic Community of KZN and committee members. Over 400 people attended, many of them having travelled from the surrounding Hellenic communities of KZN.
In his homily, His Eminence said it was a very important day for the Hellenic communities of the area, as Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of their church. And that many prominent members of the community were also celebrating their Name Day, including Mr Nikos Kritikos, a past chairman.
His Eminence gave everyone an insight into the passion Saint Nicholas had for his defence of the Dogmas of the Church. He attended the very first Ecumenical Council held in AD 325 when more than 300 bishops from all over the Christian world came together to debate the nature of the Holy Trinity. There were very intense theological arguments and Arius, who hailed from Egypt, proposed that Jesus was not the equal of God and Nicholas became wildly agitated and actually slapped him across the face!
His Eminence mentioned that he recently had the privilege of accompanying Francois Smuts, a new convert to Orthodoxy from Cape Town, on a tour of Kykkos and other monasteries and places of religious interest in Cyprus. One of the places they visited, Ayia Moni, is an ancient hermitage and the first monastery to be built in Cyprus. According to historical records, Saint Nicholas joined Saint Evtechios who was one of the acclaimed ascetics of that time and together they built the first church dedicated to the Theotokos for the monastery by cutting and laying the stones manually.
They also visited the museum at the Monastery of Kykkos where an icon of the two saints is displayed. This icon has a small window which houses a piece of a Bishop’s “Omophoron” which was miraculously given to Saint Nicholas by the Virgin Mary while he was in prison.
Later Saint Nicholas was ordained Bishop of Myra and he was a very great saint, known for his generous gifts to the poor and many miracles have been attributed to him. He is also revered as the Patron Saint of the Greek Navy and Sailors. Unfortunately, over time, his image was distorted in the West for commercial gain and he was called Santa Claus, which is derived from the Dutch “Saint Klaus”.
His Eminence said that he personally had the privilege of meeting the newly-canonised Saint Porphyrios during his lifetime. He was famous for his gift of seeing the past, present and future. Thousands of pilgrims visited him every year for his blessing and counsel. He also had the gift for seeing where there was an abundance of water without having visited the area. When His Eminence visited him in Athens, Elder Porphyrios, as he was then, told him where they should dig at the Monastery of Kykkos for water. This lead was taken seriously and to this day the water is being bottled and sold one of the main sources of income for the monastery. Many miracles have already happened and continue to be attributed to Saint Porphyrios since his dormition.
Archbishop Sergios addressed the Honorary Greek Consul and said he was very concerned about the recent conflict in the Middle East and the Aegean, and especially the area that was once Asia Minor where so many Orthodox saints came from. He assured the Honorary Cypriot Consul that the Church continues to pray for the rightful return of the occupied territory to the Cypriot people and that “only the Turks” are responsible for the problems on the Island.
Finally he welcomed the new Chairman, Mr Pantelis Eleftheriou and his committee and said that it was comforting to see the next generation continuing the good work of the previous generation. This is important because they are the parents of the next generation and they are responsible for creating a favourable environment for the continuation of our Orthodox Faith, the Greek language and cultural traditions. He also thanked the members who continue to oversee and support the Mission in Pietermaritzburg.
After the Service a celebratory lunch was held and the annual Christmas celebration. The children from the Greek school entertained everyone with poems, songs. In the afternoon his Eminence accompanied by Mr. Sotiris Stavrinou visited the Church of Saint Mark at the mission in Edendale, Pietermaritzburg where he met with the new caretaker that has been appointed for the property. This project is supported in its entirety by a few individual members of the Hellenic Community of KZN.