1. 1. Father Gavril, what is the difference of being a monk in a monastery in Australia, compared to being a monk in a monastery in Macedonia?

There is a big difference. Firstly, let us start from the fact that Macedonia is a biblical land which has had Christianity from its very beginning. Apostle Paul was the first preacher in Macedonia, and not only Apostle Paul but many other Apostles of Christ were missionaries in our Macedonia. For example, the first summoned Apostle Andrej was the first organiser of the Macedonian Church and appointed several Apostles as Bishops in the Macedonian cities. And let us not forget the most Holy Theotocos, Mother of God, who set her foot on Macedonia and so blessed it. And from that time till today in Macedonia there has been a continuous Orthodox Christian legacy.

But here everything is new and mixed up. In Australia there is no such legacy, and because of that the spiritual and even more so the monastic life is much harder. The sacrifice is great but if it is motivated by love and obedience, then God’s blessing is even greater. All we have to do is thank God for everything and with love to fulfil His Holy Will.

On the other hand, the situation is also quite similar. In Macedonia, because of the atheist regime which ruled in our land, the Monastics were on the edge.  But on being called by the HBS of the MOC (Holy Bishops’ Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church), and most of all by Metropolitan Petar, who is our Metropolitan, Bishop Naum, together with Kliment, came from the Holy Mountain to renew the monastic life in the Republic. Today in the MOC- Ohrid Archdiocese there is approximately one hundred and fifty monks in over twenty monasteries. And now, on the request of Metropolitan Petar, Bishop Naum sent me to organise the monastic life in this region. Their experience is very helpful to me.

  1. 2. If you can please, for the readers of the newspaper, tell us about the rich spiritual content of your day?

The conditions for a typical monastic life in our Diocese are still not fully fulfilled. But much more than before, things have started going forward. Slowing a healthy liturgical spiritual atmosphere is being created in the Monastery. With the blessing of our Bishop we are starting to fulfil that monastic typicon, which I had in our monasteries in Macedonia. You awake early in the morning for synaxis and for fulfilling of the rule for prayer in the quarters with the Christ prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! And further on in the day, depending on the conditions, we continue with the remaining part of the typicon, with the everyday morning and night services and the Liturgy as the centre of the spiritual life in Christ, which are held everyday except on Tuesdays, when the Monetary is closed because of needed rest. Then I check my email, I organise the work and the activities in the monastery, of a physical and spiritual nature. I write texts for our church newspaper “8th Day”, and I maintain the Monastery’s webpage, on which you can follow the entire spiritual life of the Monastery and where you can also read many beautiful enlightening things. Also currently the webpage of our Diocese of Australia and New Zealand is under construction.

Because the Monastery and the spiritual life within it is still being build sometimes I have to leave on work for the Monastery, but I try to always have the prayer on my lips and God on my right hand side and as Antonia the Great said, the teacher of the monks: Where ever you go, always have God before your eyes and whatever you do, always have a need for your Holy Bible. In every aspect of everyday life we can draw out a spiritual benefit for our spiritual growth and salvation.

Among our regular activities and obligations, according to our strengths and opportunities and obviously with the blessing of our Eminence Petar, I took the responsibility to organise and activate a Youth group in the Diocese, MOYA, with which every Thursday from 8pm we hold a synaxis (spiritually beneficial discussions). Also a church choir is organised which sings according to the old Macedonian Church singing, and in recent times we also hold classes on Byzantine icon painting according to the well known Macedonian school.

  1. 3. What additional construction lies ahead for the Monastery in Donnybrook this year?

For these 4 years that I have been here, I think that the monastery (the entire monastery land with all constructions) has made great progress. All this, primarily, is made possible with voluntary work and donations. I take this opportunity to publicly thank all those who in their own way are helping in the construction of the monastery, with physical work, donations, advice, and also everyone who has said at least one prayer or good thought.

In relation to the building of the Monastery church, it is at the phase of construction of the two domes. It only remains to cover the outside with stone and bricks, to do instillations, to paint the inside and the roofing. This also includes the interior: the icon contraction which will be made of marble and will be built in Macedonia. The plans have been given to the Bishop and it has already been donated. Furthermore outside doors, marble floor, the windows, the frescos and the icons…

Just to mention that the construction is not easy. The architect plan was made in Macedonia, according to the architecture there which here few know how to read and complete. However thank God, and Saint Prohor, that people were found for that. To give an example, till now 20 tonnes of metal have been used which has also been in part a donation by a Macedonian person, but mostly by one Russian businessman. You can see a lot has been done, but there is still a lot that still has to be done. Furthermore, let us not forget the monastic quarters, the workshop…

Here I would like to say that everyone who wants to can make a donation to the monastery. The bank account can be found on our website or donations can be made in person in the monastery and everyone for that will receive a receipt. The monastery bank account number is:

Account Name: MOCDANZ-DONNYBROOK

BSB: 063590   Account No: 10270136

  1. 4. Are you happy with the amount of visits the monastery has received from our Orthodox believers?

Generally I am happy, but at the same time I am not. I am happy because, as I already said, already a proper holy liturgical spiritual life is slowly being organised with feast, prayer, confession, Holy Communion… On the Sunday and Feast liturgies, if I am not mistaken by my estimate, attend 50-70 believers of which most are young married couples. That makes me happy because here there is a future. But I will say that I am also not happy, because most of our people know only to visit the monastery land for the big picnics, and there are also many who have never come.

The monastery is a quite place for prayer together with God where we can in peace and quite pray to God and ask of Him help and easing of our everyday worries and problems which are brought on by the feverent fast paste of living and the pursuit of capital. Those opportunities provided by the monastery, sadly, as used by few. Everyday turmoil is present everywhere, but lack quite places like this, which God directly gave to us. For this reason we should use it. Here we also have toys for the children, and it’s a place where our people can bring them and they can safely play etc.

  1. 5. In what ways do you maintain spiritual and other contacts with the monasticism in the Republic of Macedonia?

Through modern technological achievements today everything is made possible. With those monasteries that have internet installed, we use it to communicate, and with the remaining through sms messaging. At the beginning when I arrived I needed those communications, but now once we got preoccupied with the building of the monastery and the spiritual guidance among our people here, I have less and less remaining time for any communication. However our main communication is through the prayer and love in the Holy Spirit in the Church. The Church is not the temple, the Church is not the activities with In it. The Church is the congregated body of our faithful people gathered through the Holy Spirit in Christ, Who is depicted through the Bishop. The church is one congregated body, a living organism. The Church is Christ’s Body.

  1. 6. Is it foreseen for the number of our monks in Australia to increase in the near future?

Certainly it is foreseen, that is why we are building the monastery, right? The monastery is before all a place where monks live and work, who by their own will leave the world and all the “pleasures” that it offers to them and with their entire life they dedicate themselves to God. That is a perfect life, equal to the angels. Because that undertaking is an expression of free will, that is why the increase in the number of monks, as you say, is unpredictable. Anyone who wants to take Christ’s Cross and to follow him is welcomed. God said: “Come to Me all that are tired and burdened and I will relieve you; take My yoke upon yourself and learn from Me, because I am meek and calm at heart and you will find peace for your souls; because My yoke is sweet and my load is light”.

  1. 7. How much do you manage to follow the religious life in the Father Land?

As I told you, the internet makes that possible. I regularly read the official webpage of our Church www.mpc.org.mk, and one other very beautiful webpage of ours www.preminportal.com.mk where beautiful and very educational texts are put up. Often on it you can also read news or texts from our webpage which are always very well accepted by the public. Furthermore, I use the facebook network as a most accessible contact with the Church and the youth and more rarely do I inform myself from the daily electronic newspapers.

Last year with the blessing of Bishop Petar, for the first time I returned to the fatherland. Even though it was not planned, I just wanted to rest and to relive the monastic life that I left there, but because of everyone’s wishes to see me I “had to” travel through almost all of Macedonia. I was pleasantly surprised of the great progress of the Church in Macedonia, particularly the monasteries. I am happy that it is happening and that it is a reality, because always before my eyes appears the image of my first monastic days in Vodoca, where we almost didn’t have any conditions for an uninterrupted monastic life. Furthermore I remember all the unwanted events and scenes related to lack of understanding of monasticism etc., but today with our monasteries again we can show ourselves before the world and show that God lives in our Church. All this motivates and encourages me when I think about here in Australia. What we are doing now, we are not doing for ourselves, but for the future generations. With honesty I thank my overseeing Bishop, Petar, who with his prayers and Godly wisdom is always with me and supports me in moments when I sometimes feel suffering and heaviness because of the hardship and temptations which I meet on the path of establishing a Macedonian monasticism in our Diocese.

God is Great. Thank God for everything!