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Great ComplineTue Mar 20, 3:30 PM
Great ComplineWed Mar 21, 7:30 AM
Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts
Orthodoxy (46)Tuesday, 06 February 2018 22:29
Since the beginning of time when God created heaven and earth He commanded that there be light (Genesis 1:3). This light was divided from the sphere of darkness and the day was divided from the sphere of night. This pattern of day and night has continued without fail since Creation. As we know, light is essential for all living things. A “garden of delight” was created to place the man that God had formed from the earth. This garden was to provide for all of man’s needs. According to God’s plan this garden was a place without corruption, without illness or death, it was a perfect place where man was to enjoy full communion with God.
In the garden of delight there was no distinction or awareness of good and evil as there is in the world today, because man had not lost his innocence and was therefore not subject to evil. Adam and Eve however chose to disobey God and ate of the tree of knowledge which brought to them as God had warned, knowledge of good and evil with its full consequence, and that is death. They willingly chose this path because they believed the serpent, who told them that by acquiring the knowledge of good and evil, they would be like gods. To make matters worse, when they disobeyed God and realised their nakedness, God asked Adam and Eve in turn, to account for what had happened. Tragically Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed Eve. Even when asked, they chose not to blame themselves and accept responsibility for their disobedience. From this time on, man lost his communion with God, became mortal and introduced in his heart spiritual darkness. His new destiny was to be returned to the dust from which he was fashioned. He was banished along with Eve from the garden of delight which was specially prepared for him. He was now to live in a land that would consume him and itself be subject to the corruption and spiritual darkness he introduced in his own heart.
The reality and danger of this spiritual darkness exists in all men to the present day. The danger of this spiritual darkness which all humanity inherited from Adam and Eve is its dreadful and fearful consequence, spiritual death. Spiritual death is a consequence of the separation of man from God. This loss of communion with God and its effect is not limited to man’s relationship with God alone, but infects every aspect of his being and his everyday relationships with people. Its consequence is that it trivialises man who was made in God’s image. Self interest and pride dictate fallen man who had everything provided by God’s Grace in the garden of delight; fallen man lost his focus and remembrance of God, and with a darkened spirit became dispersed, fragmented, distracted, inclined towards serving other masters, continuing disobedience and constantly under attack from the demons who took pleasure in his fall and continuing fall from grace.
It is not in God’s plan however to leave man in this miserable fallen state. But as by free will man fell, by free will he is given the opportunity to be re-stored to a state of communion with God. This restoration or healing has been offered to man through Christ. This is why we refer to Christ as being our Saviour. God the Father sent His Son, the New Adam, to offer man an opportunity to return to Him.[...]Sunday, 14 January 2018 12:00
UNION WITH GOD, HEALING AND THE RESURRECTION
"Life of the soul" said St Gregory Palamas (14th Century) is union with God, "as life of the body is union with the soul." When the body is separated from the soul it ceases to live. In the same way the soul that is separated from God experiences death. This spiritual death is the true everlasting death as life of the soul through union with God is true and authentic everlasting life. "The words that I speak to you are spirit" said the Lord (John 7:63) "and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe".
THE FIRST INVITATION
Our experience and invitation of union with God occurs through the Church at Sacrament of Baptism. The Sacrament of Baptism unites us to the Body of Christ. As we are joined to Christ we become members of the same Body the Head of which is Christ. "For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and have all been made to drink into one Spirit". (l Corinth. 12:11)
As our own body is made of many different members serving different purposes they nevertheless function as a whole. The different members of the body cannot disown the body which they draw life from and serve according to their respective and appointed functions. "Now you are the body of Christ" said St Paul (1 Corinth. 12:27) and members individually. As members of the same body, Christians have an obligation to love one another and all of God’s creation.
Whilst Baptism unites us to Christ and the life of Christ, we must also understand that we must first experience death. "Do you not know" said St Paul (Romans 6:3-9) "that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, and just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him."
THE SECOND INVITATION
Having been joined to the Body of Christ we are obliged to keep His Commandments of Love. We must therefore live according His will otherwise we face spiritual death. Our defiance of God’s Commandments separates our soul from Him whereas obedience to His Law unites us to Christ who is the source of all life. "I am the way the truth and the life" said Our Lord. (John 14:6) Sin is the defiance of God and His will by our disobedience. We are obliged to repent and separate ourselves from sin through the Sacrament of Confession which acts as a second renewable Baptism. Christ promised us the forgiveness of sins which is available to us through the Sacrament of Confession. Confession cleanses us of sin so that we might be ever ready to receive Him. This then is God’s second and renewable invitation to us to be cleansed of sin and be united to Him whilst we still enjoy the gift of earthly life.[...]Monday, 25 December 2017 00:00
GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AUSTRALIA
CHRISTMAS ENCYCLICAL 2017
By the grace of God
Archbishop of Australia
To all the Clergy and devout faithful
of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
"Come believers, let us see the place
where Christ has been born,
let us therefore follow
to where the star is proceeding."
Brother concelebrants and children in Christ,
The message of the Gospel of Christ is not vague and cloudy fiction. It is light and life and it comes to shed light, to give life and to renew "those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death" (cf. Lk 1:79).
It is for this reason that the proclamation of the Incarnation of God is a knife that enters fully alight into the History of the world. And it inevitably separates humanity into believers and non-believers, into fighters willing to fight until death and those ambivalent of dying.
It is for this reason that the proclamation of Christ comes not without suffering. It cannot go hand in hand and coexist together with old customs and values "as though nothing great had taken place." On the contrary, the Christian message is painful precisely because it is concrete, and it is addressed in a particular context. The proclamation of Christ is therefore definitive and decisive.
It changes not only the appearance of the world. Above all, it changes the future of the world. It is a radical transubstantiation of the postulates and possibilities of History. It does not simply stop people from being animal-like, prudently reinstating them within their proper boundaries and inspiring them with the hope and optimism of deification by grace.
How fictitious, however, do all these things sound, Sisters and Brothers, in the night and in the confusion of the world!
The ploys of the evil one are so misleading that constant re-examination is necessary, our Christian attributes and life are in constant need of verification. For this reason:
"Come believers, let us see the place
where Christ has been born".
Come, let us search! Come, let us see. Come let us no longer verify the facts of the Cave, but those of contemporary life and society which still bear a Christian name. Does Christ exist within us? Does He exist within our life? In our outlook? In our education? In our legislation? In our art? In our sorrow and in our joy?
How much of Christ therefore exists in all these things, if we examine ourselves as individuals, or as a collective, as family, society and as Church?
This spiritual and profound measuring will be our salvation. Because Christ, who in becoming incarnate is a child, did not come to judge, but to save the world.
Wherever we find Christ present in our institutions and in our establishments, in our programs and in our aspirations, there will we be able to say to ourselves and others unreservedly:
"Let us therefore follow
to where the star is proceeding".
Let us hope that, in everything that is at our disposal on each occasion, that we will identify those things that are to our advantage. With Christ, who is alive and remains to the ages, as our only legitimate criterion. Amen!
With fervent prayers
Christmas 2017Tuesday, 28 November 2017 06:35
Some people would like to see changes introduced to Orthodoxy without first understanding or realising its treasure. For these people the Church is seen as ancient, institutionalised, highly ritualised and irrelevant to their experience of the modern age. Orthodoxy for these people is not suitable because it is not custom made or designed for their own individual experience.
In these troubled times of great social turmoil, people gaze out to the universe guided by their perception and personal feelings in an attempt to find an answer to the most important questions facing them in their life. If it were any other field or discipline, commercial endeavour or pursuit, you could be assured that these same individuals would thoroughly research their subject before drawing any conclusions and investing their time and money in ventures that have no proven methodology.
Unknown to many people, Orthodoxy is highly disciplined, and has a clear developed methodology. In contrast to this, the new customised approach to religion demands that we put our own experiences before any established methodology because the individual is regarded as the centre of all experience. The argument here is that the self is the centre of universal experience. With this approach it is no wonder that the expression of one’s own opinions feature highly in contemporary spiritual movements. Consequently many people today make decisions about spirituality on the flimsiest of evidence.[...]
Orthodoxy demands the opposite to this approach in that it is God centred. Its methodology is the Word of God, and is manifested by faith and Truth, which continues as a living experience for all the faithful guided by the Holy Spirit.Tuesday, 14 November 2017 07:10
In all centres of learning be they schools, tertiary institutions and the like, there comes a time when the students reach the end of their studies and are examined for what they have learned throughout their course or school year. During this time of preparation, the blessing of the Priest before exams and the life that is to follow is highly desirable. We call on God to assist us in every endeavour for the life that is ahead of us.
The real value of learning is the application of the acquired knowledge that has been attained. This is important firstly to one self, in respect to acquiring the necessary skills and experience, and then the application of these experiences and skills in real life to support oneself and one’s family when the time comes to do so. The purpose and application of these skills acquired also supports the community, whether it be through a trade, profession, business endeavour or field of social service.
It cannot be said as some people suggest that one profession, or trade, or field of endeavour is better than another. The value of the effort lies not in how much money we make but in how well we apply ourselves to the job or task at hand. In any field, we all know that there are both good and bad practitioners, good and bad tradesmen, and good and bad proprietors.
What does make a difference is the commitment to the job and in serving others fairly, justly and honestly.
And if we treat and serve others fairly and honestly then we will also have a commitment to serving with love, with kindness and with respect. If we do this, then we can be sure that we are also serving God.
And if we want to apply the knowledge we have attained, correctly, we will not forget that this knowledge is made up of more than mere facts and figures we have learned at school or university.[...]
The knowledge we have attained cannot be confined to scholastic domains, but it has a broad application in our life; and in this regard, we are reminded by the Church that central to all learning is the knowledge of God; because God is the fountain of all wisdom and of all learning.Wednesday, 01 November 2017 07:00
There is a prayer for all of life written by David, the greatest of Israel’s Kings (c.1000 BC). The prayer is Psalm 25 where David repents before the Lord for the sins of his youth:
“Do not remember the sins of my youth,
nor my transgressions” (vs. 7)
“Show me Your ways O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.” (vs. 4-5)
Unfortunately for many young people and for those who have already spent their youth, it is all too easy to become immersed in the activity of life so that no time can be found to serve the Lord. Giving thanks to the Lord is routinely side-lined. The remembrance of God becomes a rather remote experience, considered only to be practised and valued at a later stage in life when one is old and close to death. Who knows however, how much time we have to live? Our lives should always be lived in a way in which we continually strive to come closer to God, especially more so during our youth. It seems that youth and spirituality are viewed by many as incongruent. Youth and sport? No problem. Active social life? Very desirable. Spirituality? You cannot be serious?[...]
Youth and spirituality however are highly compatible and critical in the practice of our Orthodox faith. This is because our overall condition and state of health, fitness and energy are at their peak when we are young. Our perception tends to be sharper and more acute in our youth as is our capacity to remember and learn, and accommodate new information than when we reach a ripe old age. Serving the Lord is not only for the frail but especially for the young and strong. If we do not build our spiritual strength when we are young we will be less able and likely to follow the spiritual path when we are older, and who is to know that we will have the same opportunities as we do now? When a person ages it is not only the physical self that loses vitality and agility, but the whole person is affected. In this there is an interesting paradox because many people are convinced they will be able to practice spirituality when they are older and have more time to do so. The opposite however usually occurs. For as the body grows weaker it is less inclined to submit to the will of the spirit. Serving the Lord must take precedence over all other things especially in our youth. Whilst we are enjoying our youth however, we do not appreciate that our days are numbered and that there is no guarantee of finding the idyllic old age we may be envisaging for ourselves. If God blesses us with many years of life, our body will nevertheless be subjected to the ills of ageing so that it is easily prone to stress, disease, fatigue, irritability, frustration and exhaustion.
Whilst we have our youth we are easily deceived into believing that we can delay or postpone the intensity of our obligation to practice our faith to the full by living a life that is pleasing to God. It does not however seem logical for the young to invest time on matters that have no immediate worldly gain.Monday, 25 September 2017 17:50
As I made my way out of the Archdiocese office in Perth at around 2.00pm on a Friday afternoon some years ago and I stepped on to the front verandah and as I looked up I saw a car speeding along the road, veering off sharply onto the opposite side facing oncoming traffic. It all happened in just an instant, I heard screeching tyres, a thud and saw a man being hurled high into the air like some kind of rubber doll. The force of the impact threw him at least three to four metres high before hitting the back of the vehicle fracturing the rear glass window and landing on to the bitumen. His bicycle was left some 50 meters behind.
My immediate response was "My God, My God". Without even time to think I ran inside the office and immediately telephoned the ambulance. For some strange reason the office phones started to ring continuously without pause as if sounding an alarm. I then rushed out to see what condition the man was in. Given the force of the impact I was convinced that he was dead. As I approached the scene of the accident I saw that the man was in his early thirties. Thankfully he was breathing, in pain but lying quietly on the bitumen. The ambulance took just a few minutes to arrive. A crowd began to gather. I realised there was not much that I could do other than to say a brief prayer as the ambulance officers carefully placed him on to the stretcher. As I made moves to depart from the scene I noticed a woman identify herself to the ambulance officers as the driver of the vehicle that ran into the cyclist.
Then something strange and unexpected happened to me which I had never experienced before. I now realise that I was going through some kind of after shock. I was becoming increasingly teary and having difficulty concentrating. Evidence of the shock was apparent to me later when I got into my car to travel along a familiar route and back again to the office. In the space of just 20 minutes I took three wrong turns including driving past the office on my return. The teary symptoms continued all day and night recovering somewhat the following day, though still feeling emotionally vulnerable.[...]
A few days later I rang the local hospital to find out how the accident victim was coming along. Without a name, the hospital was not prepared to divulge any information. The hospital’s telephonist explained that a similar request was received the previous day from a woman who witnessed a motor cyclist who was injured in a collision with a car. She was not keen to engage in any discussion about the issue and I could sense her frustration in having to deal with my call. Before hanging up I suggested to her and the Chief Executive Officer’s secretary that one method by which people like myself could establish contact with victims was to pass the information on to the individual or the next of kin in order to offer them the opportunity to make contact at a later time if they so wished.Monday, 28 August 2017 17:34
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.[...]Tuesday, 15 August 2017 06:48
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."[...]Wednesday, 12 July 2017 18:58
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.[...]