Tongan citizens of Heaven
24 January 2017
Four are the cardinal directions and four are the sacred mysteries conducted in 16 October 2016, at this simple little church of the Holy glorious leading Apostles on the island of Tongatapu, in Fangaloto, a region of Tonga Islands. It is in the same area that the capital Nuku’alofa is located. The colors white and blue that are dominant in the church and in the sacred baptistery, which is situated behind the altar, create a sense of joy and hope in every soul gazing expectantly upon heaven and praying for the whole world, particularly for doleful Greece.
The church of the Holy Apostles and the Sacred Baptistery are the toil of faith and piety of the devout monks Arsenios and Savvas from Mount Athos, partners of the Mission, and of pilgrim Nicholas, who built them with their own hands.
The home of hospitality, which has already been completed, and the handsome large S. Church of the Holy Glorious and Triumphant George, which is under construction, are the result of the philanthropy of devout Christians from Greece, more particularly from Thessaloniki and Aspropyrgos, Australia and America. There should have been someone here on Sunday October 16th to watch with how much reverence and simplicity our first Tongan catechumens received the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, and then the first Holy Communion. After that, we had the first Orthodox wedding between Constantine and Helen and the feast of love, which was attended “with gladness and singleness of heart”, (Acts 2:46) by all those who participated in this great joy.
In externalizing his impressions and feelings, Constantine, who is of Jewish origin, said that with the Holy Baptism he felt reborn, which is exactly what the Lord said to Nicodemus: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Peter, an indigenous Tongan, said that with baptism he left behind his secular name Ofisi, and from that day on he would have the name of Heaven, Peter. Through his simplicity he formulated the theological truth that the person baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity no longer belongs to the earth. From then on, this person is a citizen of Heaven according to St. Paul, who says “For our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil.3:20).
Orthodoxy is once again present in distant Oceania. The cross of the Lord adorns and sanctifies the place, the chests and the homes of our newly illumined brothers. The church bell of the Holy Apostles may be small but its sound is luscious, joyful, simple and touching, and spreads as the voice of the Church to the lengths and widths of the vast Pacific, inviting every unprejudiced person to come to the source of truth and life: “Come together, all ye people, and know the power of the dreadful secret; for Christ our Saviour, the eternal Word, hath been crucified for our sake, and was buried willingly, and hath risen from the dead to save all. To him, let us bow down in worship” (Octoechos: Sunday third tone).
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Ps. 32:1) through the sacred mysteries of Holy Orthodoxy. “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:15) Worthy of their wages are the donors and founders of the holy churches of God.
After Tonga, comes the other island of the southeastern Pacific, Samoa, which is also under the jurisdiction of the Holy Metropolis of New Zealand. God willing, a new church will be built there: that of St. Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, whose voice “has gone out into all the earth,” like the voices of the leading Apostles Peter and Paul and of all the other Apostles.
“Glory to Thee, O Christ our God, Your Apostles’ proudest boast and treasure of Your Martyrs’ joy, Who to all proclaimed the Consubstantial Trinity.”
† Amphilochios of New Zealand