Vespers, with a heart-warming surprise, was the order of the day on Sunday 6 October!
Hieromonk Father Zacharias, a much-loved and familiar figure in our Western Cape Orthodox communities, was raised to the rank of Archimandrite at a moving and memorable ceremony at the Holy Metropolitan Church of Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene during the Vespers Service.
Originally, the term Archimandrite was derived from the Greek “archi” meaning highest and “mandra” meaning enclosure, which eventually came to denote a monastery. It is a title bestowed on monks and celibate priests who are highly respected and have done great works for the Church, as a sign of gratitude and affection. An Archimandrite is a rank of honour, one level below a bishop and it also means that this elevation entitles him to be a candidate for the episcopacy.
So it is completely fitting it was awarded to Father Zacharias who has certainly distinguished himself as a passionate follower of Orthodox Christianity and has worked wonders with translations of the Holy Liturgy into Afrikaans while also uplifting and inspiring many local people to turn to Orthodoxy. He is the parish priest of the Church of Saint Mary of Egypt in Robertson and has formed an Afrikaans Orthodox enclave in the area. He also commutes to Cape Town twice a month to serve Liturgy services in Afrikaans at the Church of Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene.
In a simple but sacred ritual, Father Zacharias was led to the middle of the church by Archimandrite Father Evlogios, Right Reverend Father Nikolaos and Deacon Father Michael where he knelt down and was blessed by His Eminence Archbishop Sergios. He was formally dressed in his vestments and mantel with sacral texts and was then given the three items that underline his new title.
His Eminence placed a beautiful gold pectoral cross on his chest and the kalimafion hat with a long veil on his head. The signature epanokalimafion is the veil which covers the conical hat and hangs down from the back of it to the waist with a slit on each side. It is only worn by celibate clergy and is a symbol of self-denial from worldly things and devotion to spiritual matters.
He was also given an embroidered epigonation, the stiff diamond-shaped cloth which is always worn on the right side and looped over the left shoulder. It has two symbolical meanings — the first is that the carrier is a soldier of Christ and uses the Word of God to fight evil and the second represents the towel Christ used when washing the disciples’ feet and serves to remind the priest that he is first and foremost the humble servant of God and His people.
Then with the salutation of “Axios!” (Worthy!) resounding in the church, Archimandrite Zacharias was presented to the congregation. There were many smiles and some emotional tears as everyone gathered round to watch this serene and moving rite being performed, just the way it has been for centuries.
His Eminence Archbishop Sergios formally welcomed Archimandrite Father Zacharias into the clergy and said there was no doubt that his greatest merit lies in the apostolic, pastoral and literary work he has accomplished since becoming an Orthodox priest. Being inducted as an Archimandrite was not only a reward for his devout ministry but was also an encouragement for the even greater tasks he will face in the future.
We all wish Archimandrite Zacharias the very best in his new position.
By Pepe Sofianos
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