Father Varnavas, a former Hindu by the name Shree Chrisna Nair, is the vigorous, tireless priest of the formerly non-existent and yet now bustling Parish of Sts. Athanasios and Nicholas in Labasa of Vanua Levu here in Fiji. Full of strength and vigour, full of enthusiasm and fervent zeal for the prosperity and expansion of the sole Parish on Fiji’s second largest island.
It is New Year’s Eve today, and Father has welcomed us with great joy at the airport so that we could meet each other on this great holiday at his parish, near his flock, consisting mainly of his former compatriot Hindus.
All of them, young and old, their faces etched with joy, welcome to their small church their Arch-shepherd with his entourage. He came to give them joy, but more importantly to receive joy in the presence of his spiritual children. Sacristan Nikitas cannot get enough of ringing the sweetly singing bell of the Holy Hierarchs Nicholas and Athanasius’ Church, a kind donation of a family from our Macedonia, who wish to remain anonymous. Fr. Varnavas’ relationship with the glorious homeland of Alexander the Great is twofold since Thessaloniki (of Macedonia) is the place where he was ordained into priesthood as well as it is the base of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity from which he has from time to time received spiritual and material assistance.
Present at our welcome are also other Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters who have come from the Savusavu region, two hours distance by bus, so that we can celebrate the New Year together.
The end of the previous year and the beginning of the new one are marked with the christening of fifteen catechumens both young and old, followed by the wedding of three couples, all taking place within the church courtyard.
Rich are the gifts of the New Year. Everyone’s faces are glowing with joy but especially Fr. Varnavas’, who can’t get enough of repeating the words: “The Servant of God is baptized”, and the hymn: “A brilliant robe have You bestowed on me, O You who are 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 Varnavas, you were discovered by Christ down there in Savusavu, an everyday employee, not known to many people, and you were raised and honoured through the Sacred Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation 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. Varnavas’ Parish, Fiji, our homeland Greece and all the world. Amen.
† Metropolitan Amfilochios