Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy (42)

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.

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Wednesday, 01 November 2017 07:00

Orthodoxy in Youth and Old Age

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.

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Monday, 25 September 2017 17:50

Anonymity - Serving Without Christ

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.

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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.

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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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