Father Barnabas, former Hindu by the name Shree Nair Chrisna, is the vigorous, tireless priest of the non-existent until a few years ago and now bustling with life parish community of Sts. Athanasius and Nicholas in Labasa of Vanua Levu here in Fiji. Full of strength and vigor, full of enthusiasm and fervent zeal for the prosperity and expansion of the sole parish community on the second largest island of Fiji.
New Year’s Eve today and he welcomed us with great joy at the airport so that we could meet on such a great day at his parish, near his flock, mainly consisting of former compatriot Hindus.
All of them, young and old, with joyous faces, welcome to their small church their Spiritual Shepherd with his entourage, who mainly came to give, but they also take pleasure in the presence of their spiritual children. Sacristan Nikitas cannot get enough of ringing the sweet bell of the Holy Hierarchs Nicholas and Athanasius’ church, a kind donation of a family from our Macedonia, who wish to remain anonymous. Fr. Barnabas’ relationship with the glorious homeland of Alexander the Great is double since Thessaloniki is the place where he was ordained into priesthood and the base of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, from which he has occasionally received spiritual and material assistance.
Present at our welcome are also other Orthodox Christian brothers who have come from the Savu- Savu region, two hours distance by bus, so that we can celebrate the New Year all together.
The end of the previous year and the beginning of the new one are marked with the christening of fifteen young and older catechumens, followed by the wedding of three couples, all taking place within the churchyard.
Rich are the New Year’s presents. The people’s faces are glowing with joy, especially Fr. Barnabas’, who cannot get enough of repeating “The Servant of God is baptized ” and “A robe of light Thou hast bestowed on me, O Thou that art arrayed with light as a garment …”And then follow the weddings “O Lord, our God, crown them with glory and honor.”
Indeed! Is there any greater honor and glory than the one offered by the Holy Church through her sacred Mysteries?
Father Barnabas, you were found by Christ down there in SavuSavu, an unimportant employee, unknown to many people, and you were raised and honored through the Sacred Mysteries of Baptism, Confirmation and Priesthood.
These make up the source of your strength and enthusiasm, which is slowly transforming Vanua Levu into a spiritual oasis and a point of reference. May your parishioners and family cherish you. May Vanua Levu, Fiji and our Holy Metropolis rejoice in you. May our Holy Orthodoxy be proud of you.
May the New Year 2017 be blessed and may during this year God grant His abundant blessings to Fr. Barnaba’s parish, Fiji and our homeland Greece. Amen.
† Amphilochios of New Zealand