Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy (42)

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)

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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

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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

 

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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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