Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy (46)

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.

[...]
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.

[...]
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

CATECHETICAL ENCYCLICAL
ON THE OPENING OF GREAT LENT
+ B A R T H O L O M E W

By God’s Mercy
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church
May the Grace and Peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
Together with our Prayer, Blessing and Forgiveness be with you
* * *

 

Beloved brothers and children in the Lord,

With the grace and loving kindness of God, tomorrow we enter the arena of Holy and Great Lent, the most suitable period for the soul—our own soul—to turn toward the Lord.

This period is one of constant contrition before the mystery of God that daily unfolds before us, the mystery of our salvation. This is why the opportunity granted to us with the Sacred Fast has a special characteristic: the renewal and vigilance of the soul that is called for during this time filled with divine exhortation and sanctity to become aware of the ephemeral and material, while gradually being transferred to the eternal and spiritual.

Symbolically and summarily, the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete addresses its author as well as every soul troubled and distressed by the temptations and distractions of this life. Conscious of the burden carried by a soul wounded by sin, St. Andrew cries out with anguish: “My soul, my soul, arise; why do you sleep?” This cry leads to the realization of vanity and the inexpressible fear of death: “The end is near and [my soul] will be troubled.” Before the unexpected end of life that comes “like a thief in the night,” the illumined Cretan poet invites himself and every soul suffering and consumed by the fear of insecurity to “awaken in order that Christ our God, who is ever present and fills all things, may take care of us.”

The Orthodox patristic teaching calls each of us, during this period of struggle, to recognize “who we are, where we are, and where we are headed.” We are called to realize the vanity of this temporary life and repent for all that we have hitherto done “in knowledge or in ignorance, in word or deed, in action and in all our senses” contrary to the Gospel of Christ and the law of grace. Only then shall we find mercy and grace; and only then will the Lord, who knows hearts and minds as well as the innermost secrets and thoughts of human beings, take care of us and forgive our unjust thoughts that lead us to vain and useless deeds.

The struggle that lies before us culminates in vigilance, renewal and repentance. Through repentance, namely by coming to know our condition, and through confession, our life is crowned with “forgiveness of sins, communion of the Holy Spirit, and fullness of the heavenly kingdom.” This renewal is identified with the conscience of the repentant soul (see 2 Cor. 1.12 and Rom. 2.15) and is a gift of God.

Brothers and children in the Lord,

We Orthodox Christians are called to live the period of Holy and Great Lent as a time of conscientious renewal and vigilance, as an eternal moment of our Orthodox identity. That is to say, we are called to live and experience Christ Himself, to love and experience ecclesiastically and spiritually. For it is only through our life in Christ that we have the possibility to renew our conscience and ascend to the level of true freedom and the infallible criteria for our consolation and salvation.

At the opening of this blessed period, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Great Church of Christ spiritually visit every Orthodox Christian soul that labors without consolation and is laden by the values and pleasures of the flesh and this world; we travel with and pray to “the King of kings and Lord of lords, who comes to be slaughtered and given as food to the faithful”: O Lord, deem worthy all Orthodox faithful in peace and contrition of heart, that they may journey through this sacred period and the arena that opens up before us, “granting grace and strength to all, that they may reach their goal and courageously walk the way to the festive day of Your Resurrection in order that they may be crowned with joy and ceaselessly give praise.” (Poem of Theodore, Triodion)

We bless all of you paternally, beloved and faithful children of the Mother Church. And united with you in prayer and intercession, we invoke upon all the power of the precious and life-giving Cross, through the intercessions of our Lady Theotokos, the holy angels and all the saints, so that all of us may be worthy of our calling to live as Orthodox Christians and thus enjoy the delight and glory of our Lord’s Resurrection. To Him belong the might, thanksgiving, honor, power and glory, to the ages of ages. Amen.

 

Holy and Great Lent 2017
+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant before God

Monday, 20 February 2017 21:43

Faith Without Grace?

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

THE LIFE OF GRACE

I recently asked myself the question. Is it possible to have faith without grace? I did not search for any answer at the time. A few days later I was reading holy Scripture where St Paul wrote to the Ephesians: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…" (Eph. 2:8)
It is therefore impossible to practice the faith out of one’s own disposition, out of one’s own intent. Faith may be practiced because of the gift of God, because of the gift of grace. "Life is the strength to act" says Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894: Extract from The Art of Prayer – An Orthodox Anthology pp.137), "Spiritual life is the strength to act spiritually, according to the will of God. Man has lost this strength; therefore until it is restored in him, he cannot live spiritually, no matter how much he intends to. That is why the flow of grace into the soul of a believer is essential for a true Christian life. True Christian life is the life of grace. A man makes some religious resolution: but in order to be able to act according to it, it is necessary that grace be united with his spirit. The re-establishment of the moral strength of the spirit is effected by the regenerating action of baptism, through which man is granted justification and the strength to act ‘after God in righteousness and true holiness.’ (Eph. 4:24)

So two basic questions remain: What is grace? And how does one attain and retain grace if it is by grace that we are saved?
Firstly, it is important to know that all good things come from above. The active ingredient of faith is grace. Grace is the energy of God working through His servants who are those who learn to hear Him and follow Him. I say learn to hear and follow Him because the very act of turning to God is also a gift from above. When St Paul was on his way to Damascus to persecute and cause havoc to the Christians, Christ appeared to him as a brilliant light that blinded him and stopped him in his path. Paul learned to listen and to follow Christ. God chose Paul. It was not Paul who chose God. Moreover, it was not Paul who worked his way to a state of grace, but the gift of "grace was given" so that Paul "should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." (Eph. 3:8) Paul referred to himself as "a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power." (Eph. 3:7)
But though the gift is freely given, it cannot be freely retained if the gift is not actively worked with humility. For grace is charged with the love of God which is the active calling of our Creator, to become holy once again. Grace is the calling of God to restore His creation through the love of Christ we "may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3: 19)
To receive grace and to do nothing with it is like a state of unconsciousness. Under these circumstances it cannot but be withdrawn from us. The gift of grace is not given for us alone and it is not given as the same gift for all. "But to each of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift." "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers…" (Eph. 4:7,11)

[...]
Wednesday, 11 January 2017 17:24

I Am (For You)

I AM

-For You-

 

-You are from ME-

 

I Am immortal but chose to die on the Cross for you
I Am the giver of all Life
Death is the permanent separation of you from Me
I came to save you from sin and its consequence, death and its abyss
Though I Am Life, My own creation sought to cut me off from the land of living The Divine plan however was for Me to descend into Hades to preach the good news of the Gospel to all those who were held captive there before My coming into the world

I was Resurrected for you, to give you new life
I had no need to be Resurrected
My Resurrection was new life for you to take away your mortality from you
I was Resurrected for you so that you might share in My immortality
I Ascended into heaven for you so that for those of you that hear My word you would be with Me from ages to ages unto eternity
I had no need to Ascend into heaven as I never left the heavenly realm from which I came from even when I was with you in the world
I did this for you so that you could ascend into the heavenly realm with Me

From the beginning I infused you with My Light but you set out thinking you could make a life on your own without Me
You chose that which opposes My Light and fell into darkness
I was Transfigured before you, flooding you again with my Divine and Uncreated Light
I did this so that you would know who I Am
Everything I did was for you
I Am Love and only by love can you return to me

I Am in the Father and He is in Me
I came so that you could be in Me and I could be in You
I left you and sent you the Helper, the Holy Spirit
He gave you the Spiritual power to establish My Church and to heal your souls
I Am the Head of the Church and you are members of My Body
I gave you My life to establish the Church so that you might be healed and live eternally with Me

[...]
Sunday, 25 December 2016 08:00

Christmas Encyclical 2016

GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AUSTRALIA

 

CHRISTMAS ENCYCLICAL 2016

+ STYLIANOS

By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia

To all the Clergy and devout faithful of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

 

Brother concelebrants and beloved children in Christ,

“Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

With these words, the angel tried to console the fear of the shepherds who were in the field on that night of the unprecedented Theogony, according to which God, who, in all things is uncontainable, humbled himself into the narrow limits of the human person so that He might guide us towards the boundless glory of God.

These words are altogether timely for today as well.

What however is the anthropological and salvific content of the words of the angel? What is the significance of this decisive night which separates the world from heaven?

Unequivocally, it is the words of the angel: “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”.

I have to announce, it says, a great joy which is not common. A joy which does not end.

It is the joy, that God lowered the heavens and is now with us. And He will remain with us always as the Emmanuel which means “God is with us”.

This joy is great and indestructible, since it is destined for everyone, for all humanity, it is a joy “for all people”.

Joys which are not for everyone, are small joys; they are joys which are depressing, joys which are sinful.

People seek for themselves and for “their own” such small joys, which divide and bring human persons into discordance. God, however, bestows joys which unite and build up, because they are joys directed “for all the people”. And above all these joys, there is the great joy of the Incarnation of the Only-begotten Son of God.

It is this unprecedented and incomparable joy which expels the fears of the night and of death.

This joy unites the earth with the heavens, and this is the only joy which restores relations and reconciles people amongst themselves.

It is this angelic message which we also have to repeat once again this year to ourselves and to others.

“Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”.

May this message, therefore, illuminate our troubled life.

To God the Word who became Human for us all, be glory, honour and worship to the ages of ages. Amen.

 

 

With fervent prayers to God

Archbishop STYLIANOS

 

Christmas 2016

 

Download the ENGLISH / GREEK version

Saturday, 24 December 2016 08:00

The Meaning of Christmas

When I think of Christmas I think of hope. “For with God, all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) …Yet the Creator chose to enter the world in humility without a place to stay. His birth fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah (7:14) “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is translated God is with us.”

When I think of Christmas I think of peace. For man is reconciled with God through Christ. Through His birth the Creator unites Himself with His creation, such is His great love for us. He does not merely join Himself to what is human but unites His own divine nature to it, human and divine in one, securing our salvation through His Holy and Heavenly and Immortal Body.

When I think of Christmas I think of the wise men of the east who came with exceedingly great joy bearing gifts for the newly born infant guided by a bright star. “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frank-incense, and myrrh.” (Matt. 2:10-11)

But I know that this great event, as with every event of heavenly origin, was for our benefit. For whatever God does He does for our sake. For God has no need of anything for His own fulfilment in that He is already fulfilled and perfect in every way. Therefore I know that His birth is a great sign for our life, like that bright star of the east guiding us all the way to Him to worship Him. His birth is also the opportunity of our spiritual re-birth which is made possible through Him. As the men of the east took with them the finest of gifts we too are asked to present ourselves to Christ realising that we who are lowly are the ones being presented with the greatest treasure and gift of all, eternal life.

[...]
Sunday, 18 December 2016 12:00

In God Only

We look as we watch as all things go by
We stare as we gaze into the empty space outside
We see what is around us, behind our backs, and on the other side
But it is in God only we can trust

We hear and are tuned to the sound waves over our heads
We sing and hum to the song that has no words or tune
We make music to the world’s noise as it races us by
But it is in God only we keep our silence and find real peace

We are constantly distracted and drawn to whatever we can touch
Those things will not for long be with us
We wake up from our sleep and make ready for the day
We make haste to capture the moment and make good whatever comes our way
But it is in God only we learn to focus and begin to pray

We quickly forget what we have done and leave behind
We lock the door to what we cannot understand with our mind
We reach out and take possession of the things we think are ours
But it is in the knowledge of our weakness and in God only we receive His strength

We jump while we stand on our own firm ground
We run while we walk into the shadow of our dreams
We dance and make merry while we grow old and frail
But it is in God only we learn what it is to be free

We love while we hate but still think we are good
We think ourselves generous while we give what is not ours
We take from others thinking it is ours to keep
We attach existence to lifeless and inanimate things
But it is in God only that our heart finds its beat

[...]
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 18:24

New Generation in Orthodoxy

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

We know the words and tunes of many songs but not of any hymns.

We read books and magazines on all subjects, even study for many long years; but afford little time to read and study Scripture.

We know the latest sports fixtures but little of the Church’s calendar.

We know of the rich and the famous but little of the lives of the Saints.

We talk all day long leaving little time to pray.

We go out and about in the world partaking in its frantic activity finding little or no time to worship God.

We fancy all kinds of tasteful works of art, decorating our walls and spaces, finding balance and harmony in all things, then as an after thought we place our icons in unreachable and inaccessible places, so that there is no hope of kissing the icons or saying our prayers before them. We leave them to gather dust.

We say that we have little time, that we are always in a rush, though we waste our time on things that are spiritually unprofitable.

We are used to noise and constant distractions so that we have lost the value of silence and the continuity of time.

Though we look for spiritual life we are strangers of it.
We are strangers of spiritual life because we do not know that holiness is not a quality of our own making or striving, but which only comes to us through the spirit of humility and repentance and given to us as a gift by the power and Grace of the Holy Spirit.

We live comfortably so that our heads rarely find reason to look up to heaven.

[...]
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