On April 8th an Estonian Orthodox Church ordination ceremony for Toronto's new Priest, Johannes Järvalt, was held in Vancouver, a ceremony last performed in Canada approximately 40 years ago when it was presided over by a Greek bishop. In attendance at this liturgy of ordination were Bishop Aidan, Arch Priest Brendon, Father Benedict, Deacon Andrew, and Father Stefan.
The priests began the service in black cassocks standing with their backs to the congregation during the liturgy to show not that they were apart or above the congregation, just the opposite, they were one with the people. In certain practices, priests by vesting articles and garments symbolically denote their unworthiness, a tradition originating from the Jewish religion. Johannes Järvalt's ordination integrated three stages as he moved up from Reader to Sub-Deacon, Deacon and Priest. The congregation shouted "axios" — a Greek word confirming that Järvalt was worthy of his bestowment.
Customarily, each liturgical garment and article is accompanied by a special prayer underlining its spiritual significance, such as when a priest or deacon adds a tunic, sticharion, he says "My soul shall rejoice in the Lord, for He hath clothed me in the garment of salvation and with the vesture of gladness hath He covered me," (Is. 61:10). The style of the Orthodox vestments has remained unchanged since the Byzantium era (330 AD) when the church and state were entwined. The garments are also to remind the congregation of "otherworldliness," and through the spiritual teachings of the priest to make the parishioners cognizant and attentive to the holy presence.
Historically, an Estonian Orthodox congregation was first reported in existence in 1030 in what is now Tartu, after Jaroslav the Wise conquered Tarbatu fortress and renamed it Jurjev that year. The Estonian Orthodox Church was recognized by Constantinople in 1923 and 1996. For 50 years during Estonia's last occupation, Estonian Orthodox Church in Exile congregations were administered by the Orthodox Synod in Sweden and when Estonia regained independence in 1991 the Synod moved back to Tallinn.
Patriarch Bartholomew I in Constantinople, whose official title is His Most Divine All-Holiness the Archbishop of Constantinople New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch was appointed in November 22, 1991. Patriarch Bartholomew installed His Eminence Stephanos as Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia, from France in 1999, there being no Estonian candidates. The orthodox religion has survived the canals of time, its patina imprinted by Turkish and Russian decrees. The brilliant colours of the outer cassocks derive from the Turkish period. A Google search of "orthodox church clothing" will take interested readers to a website where liturgical vestment colours of the Orthodox Church are discussed in detail. Go to www.roca.org/OA/Practice.htm and click on Symbolism of Vestments.
Father Stefan was appointed Arch Priest and Chancellor. Father Stefan has been the bedrock of the Estonian Orthodox Church in Vancouver and Toronto. Also in attendance at this special service were two ministers associated with St. Peter's Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, the minister from the Estonian United Baptist Church of Vancouver as well as many congregation members from each of these faiths. As the orthodox church membership here is very small many Lutherans over the years have sung and continue to sing in the orthodox choir.
The consecration of Johannes Järvalt was held in Vancouver due to Bishop Aidan's commitments as Chaplain to St. Joseph's Hospice in Bellingham, Washington. Bishop Aidan, a man of humour, pointed out that serving as Bishop in traditional headdress makes for quite the challenge when the mitre is too tight!
Estonian Orthodox Church ordination (41)