Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy (39)

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.

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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

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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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Thursday, 13 October 2016 16:42

The Life of a Saint: The Holy Martyr Varus

The Holy Martyr Varus and His Companions the Six Ascetics, Who Were Slain by the Sword, and Also the Venerable Cleopatra and Her Son John
Feast Day: October 19

Saint Varus was an army officer who served in Egypt and came from a devout Christian family of noble origin. His integrity and courage won him favour with the Emperor, however, his heart was drawn to the zeal of the holy Martyrs. Regularly, he would visit seven holy ascetics, who had been imprisoned for their faith and were awaiting trial.
One day, one of the ascetics died, and from that moment, Varus chose to take his place on the stand. When he came forward, the judge was surprised at this. However, he quickly became angered with Varus when he expressed his dedication to God and steadfast mindset. The judge ordered him to be hung from a trestle, and flogged until his bones broke. Varus, looking at the six ascetics, asked them to pray to God for him, that he may find strength during this ordeal. The ascetics raised their hands to heaven and prayed to the Lord, and at that moment, Varus felt a hand supporting him and warding off the blows before they struck him. Covered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, he bore his ordeals joyfully, as the sharpness of the torture was completely taken away. His tormentors only became more enraged that they fixed him to the earth and clawed at his sides, to the point that his bowels were split upon the ground. They then hung him up again, and after five hours, not before finding the strength to utter words of encouragement to his companions, he gave up his soul to God.

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Wednesday, 05 October 2016 19:57

Different Interests

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

We often hear about people having different interests. Sometimes different interests work well between people to complement each other’s weaknesses and other times causing major problems by allowing people to grow apart. When we think of differing interests we often think of different people to whom contrasting views, beliefs or values belong. Nowhere is this perhaps more obviously personified than in politics.

But it is not just between people that the different interests are evident. We often fail to acknowledge and respond to the contrasting and differing interests that exist within us. These differing interests originate from different sources within our inner person, namely the intellect and the heart. Whilst the intellect is the rational, logical and reasoning centre of our person, the heart is the compassionate, loving and spiritual centre of our being. Can these two work well together?
In a wonderful book on the life of Elder Porphyrios (1906-1991), Testimonies and experiences by Klitos lannidis, Athens 1977, an Archimandrite who was studying theology one day asked Fr Porphyrios whether the intellect has the lead over the heart or the heart over the intellect in our daily lives.
Fr. Porphyrios enlightened with great spiritual wisdom answered accordingly: “The intellect” he said, “wakes up and thinks about what lie it will say to dupe the customer; if he’s a businessman, how he should act there, what he should say to this person, what he should say to that person, how he’ll get hold of more money. The heart on the other hand, sees a small child and pampers it... He puts his hand in his pocket and gives some money to a disabled person. He runs to the hospital and visits someone who is sick… He willingly offers his services or he gives money. When the heart speaks the hand goes into the pocket. When the intellect speaks, the hand stays out of the pocket. Therefore, for me the heart comes first.” (pp. 161)
Fr Porphyrios goes on to say that “the intellect is not interested in prayer, in what the heart pursues. They have different interests.”

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

CONTEMPLATION FOR THE LENTEN PERIOD:

I clearly remember the service of the Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great held on the Saturday morning of Holy Week last year. There were quite a few people in Church that morning but nothing could have prepared me for the crowd that was to appear close to the end of the service. Why such a big crowd? A long and seemingly endless line had formed. How long was this line? The line started from the steps below the Royal Doors at the front of the Church and continued all the way to the rear spilling outside along Parker Street around the corner to Francis Street, past the rear of the Church and beyond. Inside the Church there were two lines where Holy Communion was offered by Father and myself.

SO MANY NOT SEEN BEFORE

So many people we had never seen before and they were present to receive the Holy Body and Blood of Christ…….with little or no preparation at all! The crowd was big but how many of these people should have presented themselves to receive Holy Communion?

If you are not Orthodox, you cannot receive Holy Communion, under any circumstances. You cannot receive Holy Communion even if you have been married in the Orthodox Church. You can only receive Holy Communion if you have been Baptised and Chrismated Orthodox. If you do wish to become Orthodox then you must undergo at least 6 months of Catechism classes (religious instruction) before you can be Baptised and Chrismated. Only by this means do you become a member of the Orthodox Church. Your marriage to someone Baptised Orthodox does not entitle you to receive Holy Communion.

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Tuesday, 23 August 2016 20:07

Witness and Revelation

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

The word martyr is often used by people today in a rather loose fashion and conjures up images of a person who has gone to extreme lengths for some ideal or cause usually at great cost and sacrifice to themselves. It is a word that is often used in a joking way to describe people who are perceived to have 'gone over-board' with their public display as 'sufferers'. In the Church we associate the word with persons who have given their life over to Christ even unto death. The origin of this word is Greek, and that helps us explain its literal meaning which is 'witness'. What is it that these people have witnessed and what is it that has transformed their lives to such an extent?
In the most obvious sense, one cannot be a witness without some kind of personal experience. This experience to be sure, is not one which is initiated by the self, because to be a witness of the Divine requires first of all the experience of revelation. God reveals Himself to us continually in our life but our life can at times be so over cast and pre-occupied with vain things that we lose all sense of the invitational light and knowledge of Him who is ever present. Simply put, revelation is the way by which God reveals Himself to man. Revelation can take many different forms but it is God communicating with His creation out of love. Biblical texts are rich with the experience of God's revelation to man culminating in the coming of Christ for our salvation. This revelation is the ultimate expression of God's Love to the world in which all our hope and faith is founded. This Love opened Heaven for us here on earth. As Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." (John 1:51) God allowed it for us to be joined to Him in order for human nature to be raised into Heaven. Jesus is man's access to God.

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Holy and Great Martyr Panteleimon, and the Blind Man, who healed by him, was slain by the sword
Feast Day: July 27

Saint Panteleimon was born in Nicomedia to Eustorgius, a pagan senator, and Euboulia, a Christian, who gave him the name, ‘Pantoleon’. He was educated in medicine under the tutelage of Euphrosynius, a well-known physician. His knowledge and skill in medicine was so great, that the Emperor made him his personal physician.
Everyday, he passed by the abode of Saint Hermolaus, a holy priest who was in hiding. Seeing the quality of Pantoleon’s soul, the holy priest invited him in one day and began to teach of the one true Physician, Christ, who alone can bring salvation. Rejoicing in these words, Pantoleon regularly visited Saint Hermolaus for instruction in the great Mystery of the Faith. One day, he found a dead child in the road that had been bitten by a viper. Seeking to show the truth in Hermolaus’ teachings, he called upon the Name of Christ, reviving the child immediately. Filled with joy, he hastened to his elder’s house and sought to receive Holy Baptism immediately. He stayed with his elder seven days, and on the eighth, departed for home. Keeping the details of his conversion hidden, he explained to his concerned father that he had stayed at the palace to heal a man close to the Emperor. He spent much time trying to convince his father of the futility of idol-worship.

Eustorgius was later sought out by a blind man, who had used up all his money on other physicians, and desired for Pantoleon to heal him. Trusting in the power of Christ, Pantoleon assured his father that he would heal him by the grace of God. Pantoleon marked the man’s eyes with the Sign of the Cross, called on Christ, and brought sight back to the man, both in body and soul. Witnessing the power of God, both the man and Eustorgius were then baptised into the faith by Saint Hermolaus.

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Friday, 15 July 2016 07:27

Knowledge

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

Over the ages human knowledge has increased exponentially, particularly in the present century. Fr Kosmas the Apostle of the poor (born 1714) predicted that “Out of schools will come things which your mind cannot imagine” (Father Kosmas by Nomikos M. Vaporis, pp. 160). There is no doubt that the technological advances of our century have been quite phenomenal particularly when we consider such items as electrical goods, cars, airplanes, space ships, communication systems and so on.

SELF KNOWLEDGE

Knowledge is something which demands application, it is more than a record of information and facts.
Socrates (469-399 BC) identified the importance of self-knowledge by his attention to the quest ‘Know Thyself’. Aristotle (350 BC) extended this idea to focus on self knowledge of the soul. In his essay ‘On the Soul’ he states that “The knowledge of the soul admittedly contributes greatly to the advance of truth in general...” and that “To attain any assured knowledge about the soul is one of the most difficult things in the world.”

The tragedy today is that knowledge has been applied to serve materialistic endeavours that have turned us away from the attention to our souls and true knowledge which is of God. Knowledge is perceived by the world today as a god, beholding the promise of improved life-style, leisure, health, wealth and well being.

ALWAYS LEARNING

The information age has swamped us, confused us, with the myth of progress, whilst diverting us from our real task and endeavour to seek out the knowledge of the truth, which is the knowledge of God. The reaction to this so called knowledge explosion is the delivery of a wide range of education and training courses focusing on skills and personal development.
Today many people attend formal training programs out of necessity to keep up pace with developments in a particular trade or professional field or out of some personal interest to develop higher learning. These programmes however seem to leave little room for self-knowledge, knowledge of the soul and knowledge of God. St Paul (2 Tim. 3:7) refers to those people who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

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Monday, 20 June 2016 21:44

Church, Family and Home

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

Governments are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to respond to problems facing families and communities throughout Australia. Some years ago there was a government strategy in place to support the building of strong families and communities. It is widely believed that if we can build strong families and communities this will have a positive effect on people. This view has great merit but the question is, can government programs achieve such a goal?

I believe that the way we treat our children and elderly people, reflects a great deal about the health of our community. It is disturbing to note that child abuse in Australia is at record levels as is the incidence of violence on the elderly. Violence and abuse that preys on the weak is now commonly reported in the media.

Is it stating the obvious to say that faith in God, life in the Church, love in the family, is the making of a good home? The making of such a home is what protects our young and makes for strong families and communities. The Christian home not only builds strong foundations for this life, but also prepares for the promised eternal family and Kingdom of God. It does this by not only being interested in building strong bodies, healthy minds and promoting good behaviour, but by protecting what is pure, what is innocent and what is good by building strong foundations that support spiritual health, the source of all healing and well being. In years gone by, parents were helped to achieve this by the Christian values of schools and the general community.

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