Saturday, July 23, 2016

Crucified to Self

I am crucified with Christ
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In our life, every undertaking, every action, every thought, must be a reflection of Christ in our life. The Lord will grant us the strength and ability to accomplish good works and attain holiness, if we cooperate with His grace. Prayer alone is not enough if we do not reflect moral improvement. Change must take place in our heart if we are to win the battle against the ego, and this requires much work on our part.
Central to living in all holiness of life is the acquisition of a humble and contrite heart. Humility does not come without contrition, and both are obtained with much suffering and trial. Spiritual reading, together with prayer, are necessary components of this journey to God, but must be accompanied by spiritual direction, confession, and the acceptance of correction.
If we are so proud and puffed up that we swiftly take on the role of defense attorney when confronted with correction or the critique of another, we will simply fall further under the control of the ego, and humility will remain alien to our makeup. Often the critical observations of others, which we’d like to fend off, can become a tool for regeneration, for such corrections, even if offered by someone with ill intent, can be occasions for tremendous spiritual progress.
I am reminded of my late spiritual father, Archimandrite Dimitry of Santa Rosa. He was slandered by a local priest in a very public setting. When informed, the Elder Dimitry stood up from his desk, walked across the room, and began winding a wall clock. Asked why he seemingly cared little that he’d been so falsely and viciously slandered, his only response was to say, “Many sins have been forgiven because of this.”
Making spiritual progress is never easy and must be accompanied by much effort on our part. It can come only through humility, which means that we can expect to be humiliated. If we do not flee from suffering and humiliation, but learn to accept it for our salvation, holiness can be ours, and our life will truly reflect the words of St. Paul, who said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).”
With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Source: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/morningoffering/2016/07/crucified-to-self/

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Orthodox Christianity is an Integral Religion for Today and the Future


Orthodox Christianity integrates all forms of knowing. It has no conflict with scientific knowledge, it honors our emotions, it encourages intellectual understanding, and recognizes spiritual experience. It is historical and not based on mythical stories. It has a "yoga" or "way of life" that guides a follower to grow in their ways of knowing, seeking to live in dynamic presence of God. It recognizes the interior as well as the exterior reality of all things. It has a Tradition that is over 2000 years old. Yet it embraces the nature of our current world and the freedoms it espouses. It teaches universal values and  does not reject persons with differing values. It provides a shelter for those who seek to find peace and harmony in divine love. It provides a hospital for wounded souls. It's aim is integration of body, mind, soul, and Spirit without degrading the reality or importance of any of these dimensions. This is called Theosis, a union with God that does not require the loss of our individuality or personality.

We live in a historical time of transition. In ancient times there was no differentiation of the individual, society or community, and Spirit. Man was not free but constrained by mythical and pagan beliefs enforced by society, often under severe threat of punishment or even death. But our minds were opened to power of science, our hearts were freed for self expression, and we learned the importance of developing our intellect. Unfortunately we lost the power of Spirit in this transition as the power of intellect and power of scientific discoveries began to overpower and limit our full reality. Only what was observable in physical terms our demos treatable by clear logic became acceptable truth. This has led to much dysfunction and a loss of many universal values of Goodness.

Throughout this long historical period Orthodox Church survived with its holistic and integral world view. It is now is a position to lead mankind to a greater level of development where we retain our individuality, our freedom, but find peace and harmony though a realization of Spirit.

The Orthodox Church teaches that our world is the Creation of God and maintained by Spirit. When the time was right He sent His Son, Jesus, to show us this integral way of life. Jesus is not a mythical figure but his life has been recorded by four different witnesses to His life and time. His life is also validated by both Roman and Jewish historians, as well as recent archeological findings. Unfortunately many of the lessons He taught us have been misinterpreted by many who accept His realty leaving some with a flattened view of His lessons. The Orthodox Church never lost the integral nature of His life. It was defended by Seven Ecumenical Councils with the last one being held 1200 years ago. While for about 1000 years there was only one Church, today you can find more than a thousand versions. But the Orthodox Churh has stayed true to the origin teachings about the nature of Chrust and what He had to teach.

Jesus was both fully man and fully God and he taught us how to become like Himself. He struggled to convince people of His time that there is a greater realm than the physical. They wanted a powerful king but He was king of a greater realm. It was through His cruel and painful unjust death, followed by His resurrection witnessed by many, His teaching of disciples that followed and His empowerment of them by the Spirit that He still lives among us in the Orthodox Church.

He established a sacramental Church filled with the work of the Holy Spirit where peoples of all nations could be healed, nurtured by the Spirit, and lifted in their ways of knowing to experience the dynamic presence of God in their lives. He did not give them a book but a "way of life", a set of practices and disciplines along with sacraments where the Holy Spirit is fully engaged in a way that we are renewed.

To learn more about this integral way of life Jesus gave to us you will find Ten Points that will serve as a beginning guide to this way of life. The way begins with a belief, an acceptance of the realty of Jesus as a historical person as presented in the four Gospels and his dual nature as both God and man as defended by the Ecumenical Councils. With this belief the Ten Points will guide you along an ever growing path. The Spirit is enlivened in you, and you can develop a life grounded in an experienced knowledge of the mystical energies of God.

Source: http://orthodoxwayoflife.blogspot.com.au/2016/06/orthodox-christianity-is-integral.html

Friday, June 10, 2016

My encounter with Saint Paisios

Archpriest Panayiotis Papageorgiou, Ph.D.

I consider it a great blessing that I was able to be in the presence of this humble giant of our Faith. This was a defining moment for me as I was searching for ways to anchor my faith in Christ. Elder Paisios stood as a beacon, as a light of Christ’s love, His humility and sacrifice.
Elder Paisios was gifted with the spiritual gift of discernment and was able to read the souls of those he encountered. He showed great compassion for the people who came to him from all over Greece and eventually from around the world. People unloaded their problems at his feet. He would pray, guide and comfort them and they would walk away filled with joy and enlightened by his words.
Protopresbyter Panayiotis Papageorgiou

Elder Paisios lived on earth, but for him heaven was always open. The difference between the two was just a door, which some times opened into Heaven so that he might partake of the divine grace and sometimes it opened into this world so that he might be visited by Christ and the Saints. In one occasion, when he answered the door to his cell, the Theotokos walked in, followed by St. John the Evangelist and St. Efthimia. St. Efthimia stayed with the elder for hours describing to him her martyrdom and helping him resolve the issues he was praying about.
The elder prayed for specific groups of people at certain times. Through his prayers miracles would happen and people would come back to tell him about them. In one case, during the time that he was praying for travelers, a 9-year old boy was crossing the street in southern Greece unaware of a huge truck coming his way. Right before the moment of impact the boy was picked up by “this priest” who rushed to his aid, and suddenly thrown over to the other side of the street, thus saving his life. After landing on his feet, the child looked around, but the priest had disappeared. The father of the child embarked on a search to find the priest who saved his son’s life, wishing to thank him. The search finally led them both to the cell of elder Paisios on Mount Athos. When the child saw the saint, he cried out, “daddy, this is the priest that saved my life”. They explained the event to the elder and he was able to ascertain that indeed he was praying at that time for travelers, but he was never there personally in the flesh! The Holy Spirit had acted on his behalf to save that child, revealing also the holiness of the saint and how God’s grace is poured out through his intercessions.
In another case, a young man, who professed to be an atheist, but was filled with curiosity about spiritual things, visited the saint at his cell on Mount Athos and confessed to him his concern about his father who was dying of cancer. The elder said, “I will come to visit him”. The young man was surprised to hear that, but said nothing. He returned home and went to spend time with his father at the hospital. His father was now in a coma and his death was imminent. That night he stayed by his side and fell asleep in the hospital room. In the middle of the night the young man woke up to the voice of his father calling him. His father was asking to see a priest for confession. He explained that a monk had come to him and told him that he was dying and he needed to have Confession. The description of the monk fit the profile of elder Paisios (although the elder never left the Holy Mountain). The young man brought in a priest who offered his father Confession and Holy Communion. His father passed away that day, cleansed through the Holy Sacraments.
I had the blessing to meet and converse with saint Paisios in 1986 during my first visit to Mount Athos. He was in his “outdoor guest-room” sitting in the shade on tree stumps with his visitors, discussing questions about the Antichrist and the end-times. One of the guests, a young priest, was asking with anxiety about the mark of the beast (the 666) and wondering what Christians could do if this was forced upon them. The elder, calmly but sternly responded: “Father, even if they would mark our body with the 666, can they touch our heart? If we give our heart to Christ, no one can do us any harm spiritually, even if they were to put the mark of the beast on our bodies”.
The outdoor “guest-room” of Elder Paisios where I met him (photo from my visit in 2013).

We lined up, and the elder received us privately to hear our concerns and give us advise. His countenance was radiating peace and joy. His speech was full of love and compassion. This was a remarkable day in my life which gave me reassurance on my path to the holy priesthood and the service of the Lord and His Church.
There are many stories of miracles related to this saint of our times. But the elder left us also with much holy wisdom and a loving approach to the human fallen condition, something that sets him apart in a world of legalism and judgment.

He passed on to the Kingdom of God on July 12, 1994. He died of cancer at the age of 70.

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain was canonized by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on Tuesday, January 13, 2015.

His memory is celebrated on July 12.
May his intercessions be with us.

Source: http://www.pravmir.com/my-encounter-with-saint-paisios-the-athonite-in-1986/

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Same Sex ‘Marriage’ and how it can impact you, your family and children


FUTURE FAMILIES FORUM - All Saints Belmore from Speak Up on Vimeo.
FUTURE FAMILIES FORUM Invites you to an evening of discussion and insight on the topic of “Same Sex ‘Marriage’ and how it can impact you, your family and children”, to be held at the Greek Orthodox Parish and Community of “ALL SAINTS” in Belmore (Corner Isabel and Cecilia Streets, Belmore South, New South Wales,) on Saturday May 21st. Our panel of nationally and internationally renowned experts Dr David Van Gend & Dr Roback Morse will share their thoughts on the topic in what promises to be an interesting and lively discussion. Saturday May 21st at 6:30pm.
Brought to you by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia – Marriage committee. To join or share the event please click here https://www.facebook.com/events/1603344403289888/

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Easter Encyclical from Archbishop Stylianos of Australia


+ S T Y L I A N O S
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 the Lord,

Christ is Risen!

Having crossed the sea of Holy and Great Lent once again this year, we are all invited, as illumined children of the Church, to receive Christ from the tomb as the Bridegroom.
No matter how great the powers of evil in the world, which darken and tarnish the human person, we are not permitted to show weakness of faith before life itself, since in finality life is redeemed by the Giver of life. The Paschal lamb of God awaits those who have fasted and those who have not, provided that the lethargic receive the Supper as do the pious.
Humanity and the world are the inheritance of God, which the power of death cannot destroy. Whenever we feel that our powers may be failing us in our everyday struggle, we need to remember that beyond all human strength, the power of God remains inexhaustible.
In the language of our ancestors, in the immortal epics of Homer, the words “light” and “human person” are synonymous words. Let us therefore believe, sisters and brothers, in the Light. Let us strive for the Light, so that our works might be accomplished in Light.
Come receive the light from the light which never sets! Peace be with you! Peace be with all!
To Him belong glory and power to the ages of ages. Amen!
With fervent prayers in the Risen Christ,

Archbishop S T Y L I A N O S
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Something strange is happening...

resurrection

Below is an extract of a homily by St Epiphanius of Cyprus on the Descent of Christ into Hades:

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began.
God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory.
At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, ‘My Lord be with you all.’ Christ answered him: ‘And with your spirit.’ He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:
‘Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.
‘I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.
‘For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, Whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
‘See on My Face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On My back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See My hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
‘I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced My side for you who slept in Paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
‘Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly Paradise. I will not restore you to that Paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The Bridal Chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Today, He who suspended the earth in the waters is suspended on a cross.


Below are some hymns from the Matins of Holy and Great Friday, chanted on Holy Thursday Evening:

"As You permitted the transgressors to arrest You, Lord, You said to them, "Even though you struck the shepherd and scattered the sheep, namely My twelve Disciples, I could summon more than twelve legions of angels. But I forbear, so that the unknown and secret things that I showed you through My prophets may be fulfilled." Glory to You, O Lord!"

"He who covers himself with light as with a garment stood naked in judgment. He received blows to the cheeks from hands He had fashioned. And the unlawful people had the Lord of glory nailed to the Cross. Then the veil of the Temple was torn in two, and the sun hid itself, unable to watch this insult to God, before whom the universe trembles. Let us worship Him."

"Thus says the Lord to the Jews, "O my people, what have I done to you, how have I upset you? I gave sight to your blind; I cleansed your lepers; I raised the man who lay paralyzed on his bed. O my people, what have I done to you, and how have you repaid me? Instead of manna, you fed Me gall; instead of water, you gave Me vinegar; instead of loving Me, you nailed Me to the Cross. So, I will no longer hold back, but I will call My Gentiles, and they will glorify Me and the Father and the Spirit; and I will grant them eternal life."

"Today, He who suspended the earth in the waters is suspended on a cross.
The King of the Angels wears a crown of thorns. 
He who wraps the sky in clouds is wrapped in a fake purple robe. 
He who freed Adam in the Jordan accepts to be slapped. 
The Bridegroom of the Church is fixed with nails to the cross. 
The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear. 
We worship Your Passion, O Christ.
Show us also Your glorious Resurrection."

Friday, April 22, 2016

"The Divine Liturgy is a betrothal to Christ"


The Divine Liturgy is a betrothal to Christ, it is a wedding. It places us in His Kingdom.

Later, we will go out again, we will go back to our house with our passions, with our sins, and with our miseries.
It doesn't matter. Again we will go to Liturgy, and again we will seize Christ, He will deify us again. And thus, with continuous struggle, with a continuous path, with the Priest before us and we behind, we will reach the Kingdom of Heaven.
Do we go to the Liturgy with this desire? We obtain the Kingdom of the Heavens.

-Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra