Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy (39)

Monday, 28 August 2017 17:34

The Kiss

The following article was written by Fr Emmanuel Stamatiou soon after he was ordained a Deacon of the Church.

THE KISS OF A YOUNG CHILD

Following the service of the Divine Liturgy one Sunday while I was preparing for a Baptism I was approached by a little girl who was about five years of age. There was no one else in the Church at the time. I stopped what I was doing, for she remained still and close by my side. I was busy positioning the font and preparing the table upon which the holy Gospel was to be placed along with other essential items required for the Sacrament. Having realised that the little person was waiting patiently at my side I turned around, looked down and asked, can 1 help you? Yes she said, I would like to kiss your hand. She kissed my hand and immediately exited the Church.

Why would a little girl be so happy to kiss the hand of a deacon? Who taught her that this was a good thing to do and for what benefit? From what I could see the child initiated the action herself, there was no adult in sight. She did not kiss the hand to receive a sweet.

She left with a blessing. She could not show it to her mother and say look what I have got, but what she received was very real, as it was real for the person through whom the blessing was given. I was deeply touched by the little girl's presentation and pure heart. I was humbled by her approach. Many adults cannot humble themselves to receive such a blessing. What most people see is the hand of an unworthy priest.

What is important to understand however, is that the hand of the priest which bears the blessing does not emanate from his person or his personality but from his priesthood which is greater than himself and anyone who serves within the priesthood. The blessing is God's blessing and if discharged with faith; both the priest and the recipient are humbled before God.

This young child was in a spiritual place, the house of God. She came to receive God's love and blessing and walked away with joy. She received a blessing which came from God and is beyond every person's comprehension. For this blessing there can be no distinction made between a child and an adult if we approach the priest in the correct manner. She like all innocent children of God seek out the blessing through a pure and sincere heart. This state of Grace is often lost however by adults who choose to rely on reason rather than placing their trust in God.

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Tuesday, 15 August 2017 06:48

Out of the World

DO NOT LOVE THE WORLD

Why is it increasingly difficult for those who follow Christ to be understood by the world? Clearly the living are all in the world; but of those who proclaim to follow Christ, not all are necessarily of it. Those who are true servants of Christ cannot be of this world though they live in it.
In his first epistle, St John the Theologian clearly addresses this issue when he wrote (1 John 3:2) "Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him." Meaning that the world did not accept or acknowledge Christ the Messiah, whose mission and love was to fulfil the Will of the Father and save the world. But alas the world did not accept Him, so the consequence of the world's hatred and rejection of Christ also is a consequence for those who belong to Christ and have become children of God. "Do not love the world," says St John (1 John 15) "or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

These are the divinely inspired words of St John reflecting the very words of Christ Himself when He said: "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world, would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

FRIENDS OF THE WORLD
THE NEW HUMANITARIANS

Today there is an expectation and a belief that one ought to be a friend of the world and of God. It is believed that this is not only possible but highly desirable and the ultimate state that one should strive for. They have not fathomed the words of Christ because they cannot comprehend the living truth. It is impossible to belong to the world and have knowledge of God. They may converse about the subject of God, they may read Scripture, and they may stand for social justice, but to become children of God requires much more than this. To become children of God is to struggle against evil and to be hated for it. Why? Listen to the Words of Christ. They have not been written only to sound profound. They are the living truth, they are what is happening, and what will happen to those who belong to Him. Are we prepared for this? How shall we endure?

In the Athonite Gerontikon (Sayings of the Holy Fathers of Mount Athos, Thessaloniki 1977, pp. 429) an elder is quoted as saying, "If you want the enemy not to fight you, (meaning the devil and his influence in everyday life) all you have to do is eat, drink, sleep and do whatever you feel like. Then the devil will not bother you with either temptations or problems. He is like a dog. You don't bother the devil and he stays quiet. You bother him and he throws himself at you and bites."

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Wednesday, 12 July 2017 18:58

Speak Sparingly and Glorify God

The real celebration of life is to glorify God. If the heart has no inclination for this, then this is the epitome of ungratefulness.

There are those with few possessions who find reason to glorify God. They do so with great joy.

There are those who have everything provided in abundance yet the sense of sufficiency always escapes them.

All that we have is on loan to us by God. If we share what is already His, our reward in Heaven will be great.

A life centred on God finds true purpose. A self-centred life surrenders itself to failure and defeat. Self-centredness and hard heartedness makes us strangers of Christ, robbing us of the victory won for us on the Holy and Precious Life giving Cross.

It is good to keep a clean and tidy house, a clean and tidy office and a beautiful garden. It is good to strive for excellence in all these things. But every person’s first endeavour must be to keep a clean and tidy mind filled with good thoughts, a clean and tidy body fit as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and a clean and tidy heart, one that is worthy of communion with God.

Excellence cannot be achieved without striving. Excellence cannot be realised if we do not learn to serve others. And all this is in vain if we do not have the love of Christ in us.
For Christ said “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.” (Mark 10:43) This means that we must place ourselves last and consider ourselves the least – to become the servant of all. For Christ said “Whoever of you desires to be first shall be the slave of all.” (Mark 10:44)

There are those who believe that excellence can be achieved by concentrating on material refinement, the acquisition of wealth, the attainment of knowledge, the application of their intellect for some improvement in their field of endeavour. It is impossible to achieve lasting excellence in anything if it we do not learn to love and serve God and to love and serve His people.

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Thursday, 22 June 2017 20:27

The Enemy

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27)

Christ was crucified along with two thieves. One of the two thieves scoffed at Him asking, “Are you not the Christ? Then save yourself and us.” (Luke 23:39) But the other thief said, “Lord remember me in your heavenly Kingdom.” The Lord replied to the second thief “Truly I say to you from this day you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Here as always the universal law of God’s word applies. When a person is pre-occupied with preserving his or her life for this life, he or she dismisses what this life is really for. By so doing, the person also dismisses why Christ died on the Cross for all of us. We fail to perceive that this life is perishable, whereas the life that Christ came to prepare for us in his heavenly kingdom is eternal.

Our enemy is the devil who was defeated by Christ on the Cross. The enemy cannot accept that Christ has saved the world and everything will be made new. He cannot accept that we are to be granted new life beyond the grave sharing in His great glory because of his jealousy for what God has prepared for us. So the thief scoffs because he has no vision of God rather than making amends and to cry out to God as the other thief did to have mercy on his soul.

The thief scoffs at Christ giving expression to the enemy’s cause, to provoke and to tempt God; to initiate a response from God given the desperate disposition that the thief finds himself in and revealing the doubt that is embedded in his heart. At this most urgent hour, full of doubt and close to his death he seeks to force God to reveal His authority and power with the aim of saving himself. But Christ chose to die on the Cross for all of us, to save us from the enemy. The act of desperation on behalf of the thief is not pleasing to God. His aim is purely to preserve his earthly life, fulfilling Christ’s words “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for My sake, will save it. (Luke 9:24)

If we learn to love our enemy we effectively disarm him. Who is our enemy? Our real enemy is the author of the forces of darkness and evil, the devil. He seeks to invade our hearts and minds. He works through others and ourselves to do this.

To disarm the enemy we must not harbour ill will against anyone. It is important to remember that the enemy has no outlet other than through God’s fallen creation, attempting to gain entry to us by undermining our will and integrity through our thoughts and actions, knowing our volatility and vulnerability, we having fallen from grace and communion with God.

It is important to remember that the enemy is cut off from God. Therefore the desperate enemy attempts to undermine us in order to gain access to us and to control our life especially opposing those who struggle to progress towards God. This is the true battleground and spiritual warfare of our lives.

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Tuesday, 13 June 2017 19:59

How Do I Prepare for Holy Communion?

Years ago when I was a young boy I was bewildered by the strange school environment that I found myself in. There could not have been a greater contrasting difference between my family's migrant Greek speaking home and my school. Among many of the strange things that I had to contend with was the English language as we spoke only Greek at home. One of the many words that left me perplexed was the word "Eucharist" which I dismissed as a word not related to my Orthodox faith which I would hear on occasion during religion classes.

Years later when I began to understand my own Orthodox Christian faith better I re-discovered that strange word again - "Eucharist," - to my pleasant surprise it was the everyday Greek word for "Thank you" or "thanksgiving" - Ἑυχαριστῶ, pronounced - Efharisto.

What a discovery that was for me. This strange word was in fact very familiar to me. So the two words in Greek "Theia Efharistia" means Divine Thanksgiving or - "Holy Communion".

And what is Holy Communion? It is the very Body and Blood of Christ Himself offered for us sinners. All this is made possible by Christ's suffering and death on the Cross. This is not offered to us symbolically but it is His actual Body and Blood that we receive. For Christ said "Take eat this is My Body... this is My Blood." (Matthew 26 vs 26-28)
In other words all of Him for us, so that He may dwell in us, that we might have life in Him, because of the great Love that He has for us. He gives His life for us.

And why would He give all of Himself for us? Because without Him we have no life in us. He is the life in us. Preparing ourselves to receive Holy Communion opens the way for Christ to live in us and we in Him.

"Most Assuredly I say to you" said Jesus "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." (John 6 vs. 53)

To return to a state of grace then, we must be healed by partaking in the Sacraments of the Church and to actually receive Christ in us, we must receive Holy Communion which is His Body and His Blood.

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Thursday, 01 June 2017 21:51

Why Should You Go to Confession?

A pragmatic view:

 

Confession will help you with everything you have to face in life, past, present and future.

Do you find this hard to believe?

Confession opens your heart to God. With God all things are made possible.
When you go to Confession you restore and renew the power, enlightenment and purity God gifted to you on the day of your Baptism - a spiritual communion with God.

Many Orthodox Christians are unfamiliar with the seven Sacraments of the Church. The practice of these Sacraments is however, essential to healing our soul. You cannot do without the Sacraments. They are the means by which we come in to communion with God and receive His blessing and experience mystical healing and transformation. The Sacraments are not as many people perceive ritualistic ceremonies.

Despite this, many people think and have been told often by misinformed relatives and friends that it is not necessary to go to Confession and that this is not an Orthodox Tradition.
Clearly this is not the case as Confession in the Orthodox Church has existed since Apostolic times, consistent with Christ’s teaching and essential to the practice of our faith and the healing of our soul. If the soul and heart is healed so then it follows that our physical and mental health also benefit as we learn to strive and walk the righteous path leading to our salvation. To walk the righteous path requires changes in us that are inspired by our remorse for what has not gone right in our lives. This remorse or regret in us becomes the active spirit of repentance.

People also may regard Confession as unnecessary because it can be confronting. It is easier to simply dismiss or to rationalise it away. But just like many things in life neglect and ignorance is costly because it does not rectify the wrongs and positively align us with God’s truth in order to spiritually progress. Otherwise our life will tend to stagnate in all its efforts, responsibilities and activities.

God bestows grace and blessings to us to progress in life, which is activated by the Holy Spirit through all the Sacraments and especially through Confession. These blessings do not just benefit ourselves but also those whom we love and whom we are in contact with, our whole family, all the faithful and to all people. Confession can bring limitless inner joy, allowing light heartedness and contentment that is difficult to describe. It deals directly with our heart and its concerns and helps resolve the difficulties we face in life by the absolution of our sins.

[...]

The Orthodox view of death refers to Christ's victory over death on the Cross and the new life granted to us through His Resurrection.

Death is seen as an unnatural state. It was never part of God’s plan for His Creation to experience death. It is man's transgression that caused our separation from God and its consequence - death.

Out of love and concern for His creation therefore, Christ came into the world, to die for us and through His Resurrection grant new life to us mortals.
Christ did this by taking on our human nature whilst fully retaining His Divine nature, and trampling on our death and restoring new life in us by His Holy Resurrection.

This gift of new life is gifted to us on the day of our Baptism.

But to earn this gift we have to value and strive for it by our own free will and with the right instruction and living a good Christian life we can progresses towards our union and communion with God. Simply put, we progress towards union with God by our love for God and by the keeping His Commandments; whilst we also continue to love others as we do our own selves.

Death is not seen as our end or our annihilation but as our 'falling asleep.'
When a person 'falls asleep,' the soul is temporarily separated from the body. But the soul continues to live. In this state the soul of a departed person benefits from our prayers at the funeral service.
Our prayers are directed to God in the funeral service to forgive their sins and errors and to offer forgiveness and comfort to their soul. This is why in the Orthodox Christian Tradition we pray for the deceased on the day of their death and on the day of their funeral, but also at various other times during certain specific intervals as well long after their passing from this life.

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Monday, 15 May 2017 17:07

Prayer Is Our Life

One of the most difficult things to do is to pray well. Prayer is like a spiritual barometer of our inner state of health. Even those who are well practised at it can fall into all kinds of strife. Why is this so?
Because prayer demands the attention of our whole person calling upon the mind, the soul, the physical self and most importantly our heart. To turn our attention wholly to God is not easy to do. Yet such devotion is an integral aspect of true love.
Jesus instructs us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
Central to the practice of good prayer therefore is the ability for us to direct our full and undivided attention towards God. Even well known prayers that we commit to memory such as the Lord’s Prayer or the Creed should be said as if for the first time calling upon our whole person to attention before God. This requires great concentration and inner strength.
Interests of other kinds that demand our full attention, be they people, activities or material things that take precedence over God can serve as powerful interferences in worship and prayer. Worship and prayer are essential expressions of our love for God. We may feel justified in immersing ourselves in all kinds of activity which are all absorbing and engrossing in our lives. Such activities may include our career, study, occupation, sport, recreation, possessions and so on. But if we allow other things to take precedence over God we will find ourselves in spiritually treacherous ground. For it is only by acknowledging God that we become truly fulfilled in whatever we do, for He is the source of all life and existence. And by this means, by acknowledging Him the source of all that exist and that is love, we can then realise what is paramount in prayer, and that is to practice remembrance of God who is central to every aspect of our life. The more God is forgotten in daily activity, the more difficult it becomes for us to pray or even have our prayers answered because our prayer is reduced to little more than an additive rather than assuming its rightful place as a central and essential ingredient of our relationship and love for God. God not only provides all that we have but has given us life itself to experience those gifts. How can we then enjoy those gifts but fail to remember Him?

How quickly we forget that all things were created by God? Nothing therefore has any legitimate precedence before Him and nothing is beyond Him for all things are of Him and in Him. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John:1:3)
God does not exclude Himself from His creation, though He does not require anything to sustain Him. He has chosen to be one with His creation. So He is served by us through what is already His.

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Sunday, 30 April 2017 21:59

Explosion - Implosion

The following article was written by Father Emmanuel in his early years as a Deacon.

I remember in the early nineteen seventies whilst studying sociology at university there were new theories warning about over-population in the world. Dr David Suzuki was one of these theorists warning the world of an impending catastrophe if population growth was not stemmed back. The theory was based on the view that the environment could not sustain an increase of people, as it would cause the outstripping of resources and alter the balance of nature.

Dr Suzuki’s views posed a real problem for me as an Orthodox Christian. Most importantly, his theories of catastrophe were not consistent with God’s law. For as it is written, God blessed man and said, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

The doomsday prophecies of the population theorists hit a chord with many people which are upheld to this very day. For implied in their message was the view that sustainability of the earth’s resources could only be achieved through our good management involving population control. (Throughout the world 50 million abortions are performed every year.)

My difficulty with these theories is that they supposed knowledge beyond God’s providence and blessing and eventually leading us on to the wrong path in direct opposition to God’s will. I can not accept that any man’s thinking, no matter how plausible, can perceive beyond God’s providence in a world that is certainly time limited and perishable. It goes without saying that we have a responsibility to manage the earth’s resources and environment; but man wants to play god.

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017 22:08

The Spiritual Progression of Man to God

An Orthodox Christian Spiritual Grid

-THEOSIS-

(The Union of Man with God)

 

THE OLD CREATION
(Fallen Man – Adam and Eve)
THE NEW CREATION
(The God-Man CHRIST)
Attributes of
The Fall
Attributes of
The Transformation
Attributes of
The Divine Gifts
Attributes of
The Divine Nature
Expulsion Reconciliation Adoption Theosis
Mortality New Birth Resurrection Eternity
Ignorance Knowledge Understanding Wisdom
Forgetfulness Remembrance Prayerfulness Omniscience
Laziness Attentiveness Asceticism Omnipresence
Fragmentation Dignity Communion Unity
Indifference Discrimination Compassion Love
Confusion Rationality Dispassion Order
Darkness Enlightenment Luminosity (Uncreated) Light
Egocentricity Selflessness Theocentricity Omnipotence
Nakedness Adornment Grace Righteousness
Impurity Catharsis Healing Purity
Anxiety Repentance Obedience Peace
Willfulness Abandonment Providence Humility
Corruption Sacrifice Incorruption Perfection
Discord Harmony Radiance Beauty
Suffering Forbearance Healing Salvation

 

Fr Emmanuel Stamatiou

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