Staying low-key with focus on spirituality

Father Pitirim Dondenko leads the parishioners of the Russian Orthodox Christian community in Singapore in prayer during a midnight service to mark Easter.
Father Pitirim Dondenko leads the parishioners of the Russian Orthodox Christian community in Singapore in prayer during a midnight service to mark Easter. ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

Orthodox Church is one of 3 major Christian groups here and Easter is its biggest event

Easter might have long passed as far as Singapore's official calendar goes, but for Orthodox Christians, the most significant event of their faith took place last weekend.

The day on which they celebrate Easter, also known as Pascha, is calculated based on an ancient Orthodox tradition.

The activities which spanned the last week of April this year - their Holy Week - retrace the events leading up to Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection in AD33.

They culminated in services on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Easter bunnies and chocolates are not the focus of the celebration; instead, congregants assemble to chant the Scripture after a 40-day fast.

Father Pitirim Dondenko of the Russian Orthodox Church Singapore said that, to them, Easter is more important than Christmas.

"The resurrection is the centre of our faith and our key focus rather than the birth itself because through Christ's resurrection, we have promise and hope of our own resurrection if we live like Him," he said.

The Orthodox Church is one of three major Christian groups. The others are Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.

 

It retains the seven sacraments or rites such as baptism and confession.

The church is led by patriarchs and bishops. Married men can choose to be ordained as priests and deacons.

A special practice of Orthodox Christians is their veneration of saints and holy icons, or religious images. Followers kiss them, bow and burn candles before them, to honour the persons they represent.

Metropolitan Konstantinos Tsilis of the Metropolitanate of Singapore said that few know about the Orthodox churches here because they do not advertise themselves.

The title of metropolitan is equivalent to an archbishop.

He said: "It's never our policy to proselytise and our evangelistic efforts are low-key.

"We're not so visible because our emphasis is on spirituality rather than politics, power and appearance. That was the target from the beginning. Not political power or money.

"We've survived 2,000 years and are still here," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2016, with the headline 'Staying low-key with focus on spirituality'. Print Edition | Subscribe