Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Information session on the proposed same sex marriage legislation

Same sex ‘marriage’ legislation may be introduced into Federal Parliament as early as next week. Perhaps never before has there been such a potential risk to the rights of Australians, especially Christians. Come and hear four presentations that will touch on the consequences that same sex marriage will have over your workplace, local school, church and family. Come hear what the media is not prepared to tell you. Will the overseas experience with same sex marriage also happen here? Same Sex Marriage is not just about equal rights – there is more to it than you think.
The Parish of St. Ioannis, Parramatta in collaboration with Pantanassa Monastery, have organised an Information Session on the proposed Same Sex ‘Marriage’ legislation (a repeat of the Information Evening that occurred at Mascot last Sunday).
WHERE: St Ioannis (St John’s) Greek Orthodox Church, corner of Purchase and George Streets, Parramatta N.S.W. (enter through Purchase St, instructions on how to get there can be found in the section below called "how to get to our new Church")
WHEN: Sunday 9th of August at 11.30 a.m.
After the Liturgy, which finishes at 11am, we will serve light lunch, then the information session will start, so it will run from about 11.30am till 1.30pm
Very Rev. Archimandrite Fr. Eusebios Abbot of Pantanassa Monastery: (Bachelor of Laws, B.Theol.) ‘The Orthodox Church’s understanding of Marriage, ‘same sex ‘marriage’ and our duty to contribute to the national discussion.’
Dr. Anna Dimitriou: (PhD. in literary critique & cultural identity) ‘The Social impact of the proposed same sex ‘marriage’ legislation’.
Mr Nicholas Augustinos: (Senior Lecturer of Law, The University of Notre Dame, Sydney) ‘The proposed same sex ‘marriage’ legislation and the impact on religious liberty and other legal consequences.’
Mrs Helen Magdas: (B.A. Dip.Ed.) ‘The possible impact of the same sex ‘marriage’ legislation on Education and Children.’
The presentations will be for 10 – 15 minutes each and then a Q&A WILL FOLLOW.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Miracle that took place in Russia

Through the will of God, the account of this miracle, which took place 24 years ago [1965], has reached America. It's authenticity is verified by the fact that it records the year, day, hour, city, address, names... etc. Reading it, we behold the great care which God has for the salvation of our sinful souls. Read it with attention, and compare it to the other miracles which are occurring today throughout the world. [Various weeping icons and Apparitions] You will observe that the same message is repeated: We must repent, for the Son of Man will come soon, and then it will be too late for us to be saved even if we wanted to be. Work, while it is light...!

—Monastery of the Dormition of the Mother of God, Rives Junction, Michigan

I used to be an atheist mocking God and persecuting the Holy Church. I lived my life in sin, and spiritually I was completely dead. But suddenly, in His great mercy, God called me, His creation, to repentance so that I would not perish.

This is what happened: In 1962 I became ill with cancer and suffered from the disease for three years. The doctors treated me in vain, for my health deteriorated more and more each day; it reached the point where I couldn't even drink water without vomiting. I was transferred to another hospital where two doctors were called in from Moscow to operate on me. That was on February 19, 1965, at 11:00 a.m. They discovered during the operation that my intestines had decomposed. That was when I died.

While they were making their incisions on my body, my soul was standing with the two doctors. I looked on in horror at the disease which affected my body, seeing my stomach full of cancer. As I watched, I thought to myself. "How am I in two places; how am I standing here and lying down at the same time?"

The doctors removed the intestines and placed them on the table, saying that instead of being fleshy and pliable, they were nothing but liquid—in other words, they had already decayed. Then they put all of the rotted tissue in a pile and said: "She couldn't have lived any longer; there was nothing healthy inside of her, everything was decomposed." This operation was performed by Doctor Izdrael Igaevici Newman, a professor, who was assisted by ten other doctors.

The doctors decided to give my body to the young interns to practice on, and thus, it was taken to the morgue where I was laid down naked, covered only with a sheet up to my chest.

Just then my brother came in with my son, Andrusha. My little boy came up to me, kissed me on the forehead, and broke out in tears, saying: "Mommy, why did you die? I'm still little, how will I live without you?"

I hugged him and kissed him, but he paid me no attention at all. I saw that everyone in the room was crying.

After that, I found myself in my own house. My mother-in-law from my first marriage came in, followed shortly by my sister and her husband. (I didn't live with my first husband—he believed in God.) They began dividing up my belongings. I was well-to-do, but everything which I had was gained by sin, not by honest work. My sister began to take everything which was of any value, and my mother-in-law asked for something for my little boy. My sister then began ranting at her, saying: "The child is not your sons. You aren't even related to him."

While my sister was yelling these accusations, I saw demons, smiling with delight and writing down every word which she said! After that, my sister and mother-in-law left, locking the door, and going home with sacks full of my things.

Just then I, Claudia the sinner, flew very high. I was amazed at the fact that I was flying. I flew over Barnal, then everything became dark. The darkness lasted for a long time during my journey. Someone showed me the places I had lived while I was young. I didn't know what I was flying on: through the air? on a cloud? I couldn't tell; but when I reached the first place below heaven, at first it was overcast, like a gloomy day, then the light became so strong that it was impossible to see.

Someone sat me down on a place which was very high, although during the entire time I was flying, I was lying down—I don't know on what, it seemed like some sort of platform, but whatever it was, it was flexible and black. I started going down a long pathway; on the sides of the path were bushes, not very tall, but they had leaves which were very thin and sharp. In the distance I saw tall trees with beautiful leaves of all colors. Between the trees were small new houses, but I didn't see anyone in them. There was beautiful green grass running along this valley, and I wondered where I was: was it a village, a city? There was no one to be seen. But who lived here? I looked about and saw that a short distance away a woman, tall and very beautiful, was approaching. She was wearing a long garment covered by a cape. A young man was following her, weeping uncontrollably. It seemed like he was saying something, asking for something, but she ignored him. I wondered to myself, What kind of mother can this be; her child begs for something and she doesn't even look at him!

When the woman came closer to me, she said: "Lord, where should I take her?" She was standing with her hands lifted to her breast, her eyes raised to heaven.

It was then that I realized with a terrible shock that I had died; my soul was in heaven, but my body was on earth. At that same time I realized that I had so many sins which I had to answer for. I began to cry bitterly. I looked about to see the Lord, but couldn't see anyone; yet, I heard the voice of the Lord. He said: "Send her back to earth; it's too soon for her to be here. Her father is compassionate and has been praying to me constantly, and I have decided to have mercy on her."

Then I knew that this woman was the Mother of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, the Queen of heaven and earth; and the young man who was crying was my guardian angel.

The Lord went on to say: "I'm tired of her mockery against God, and her foul life. I wanted to wipe her off the face of the earth without any sign of repentance, but her father has prayed so much. Show how her all the places she deserves to be sent to."

Suddenly I was in some water, with the most horrific snakes climbing all over me. They had long tongues with flames of fire coming out of their mouths. There were many other forms of reptiles which all gave off an insufferable stench. These dragons climbed all over me, attaching themselves to me. There were also all kinds of worms wrapping themselves around my neck. They were as thick as a finger, a quarter of a yard long, with spikes on their tails. These worms found their way into my body through every orifice: genitals, eyes, nose, mouth, piercing my insides and fastening themselves to me. They were absolutely revolting and unbearable! I cried out with all my strength, but it was not my voice which I heard. But, there was no mercy to be found in that place, no help from anyone.

While I was there, a woman who died while having an abortion came in. She began to cry out and ask God to have mercy on her. But He answered: "Why didn't you ask me for help while you were alive on earth? You killed an infant in your womb and advised people not to have children, saying that it only made poverty worse. In my eyes, there is not an over-abundance of children. I give children to everyone. In my house, there are many rooms."

The Lord God said to me: "I sent you sickness so that you would repent, but you lived right up to your last moment blaspheming against me. You didn't acknowledge Me until you came here. Now I don't recognize you either."

I felt like the ground was spinning. I flew away from there toward the noisy earth. Then I saw my village church, the very church which I used to ridicule. When the doors of the church opened, a Priest dressed in white, with bright rays emanating from him, came out. He stood with his head bowed. Then the voice of God asked me: "Who is this?" I answered that it is our Priest.

The Lord said to me: "You used to always say that he is a lazy bum. He is not a bum, not a hired-hand. Whatever he may be personally, above all, he is a servant of the Lord among the little ones. If the Priest does not read the prayer of absolution over you, neither will I forgive you."

The Priest is living even to this day, serving his office of the Priesthood. What I saw there was his soul. That was when I began to beseech the Lord: "Lord, set me free and let me go back to earth. I have a little boy there; have mercy on him!"

"Look, you have compassion for one single person, but I have innumerable souls to consider. I have compassion for all of you, three thousand times more! But, what path did you choose in life? A wrong path! You work to accumulate riches which you use for all sorts of iniquity. Did you see now how I took away all your possessions? Everything is gone. They took your son to an orphanage, and your sinful soul has come here. You served Satan, an idol, offering him sacrifice, and now you ask me to release you from the punishment which you deserve. All you ever did was amuse yourself, going out to movies, theaters, dances; you gave money to Satan, but didn't so much as want to go into the Church of God. I waited and waited for you to wake up from this sinful state and repent."

After that, the Savior said: "Look after your souls, for there is a short time left. Very soon I will come to judge the world"

Then I asked the Lord: "Lord, how should I pray?"

He answered: "The most precious prayers are not theories which you learned by heart, but rather the prayer which you offer from a pure heart, from the depth of your soul. Say to the Lord, 'Lord, forgive me! Lord, help me!' offering these words with tears." That is what the Lord told me.

Then the Mother of God was near me and I found myself again on that small platform, but now, instead of lying down, I was standing up. The Queen of heaven said: "Lord, how can I release her, she has short hair!?"

The Lord said: "Put a braid, the same color as her own hair, in her right hand."

When the Queen of heaven went off to get the braid, I saw that she drew near to some large gates, constructed and sculpted along curved lines, like the Royal Doors of the Altar. They were indescribably beautiful, with a light coming out of them which was so bright that it was not possible to look at it or even explain. As the Mother of God approached, these gates opened on their own, and she went into a palace surrounded by a courtyard. I remained standing in my own place, with my guardian angel, who would not let me see his face, standing next to me. I decided to ask the Lord if I could see paradise. He said nothing when I asked.

When the Queen of heaven returned, the Lord said: "Show her heaven!"

The Queen of heaven gestured with her hand over me and said: "Earth was your heaven; this is the place for sinners; look and see what it is like."

She lifted up something like a sheet and then I saw men far off: black, as though they were burned, and they looked like skeletons. There were so many of them, and they gave off an intolerable stench I was terrified that I would be left there. Then all of them, -at once, stood up and with parched throats, begged that someone give them at least a drop of water to drink. I was horrified when they said: "This soul has come to us from the earthly paradise! There is a sweet smell coming from her. Man, while on earth, has the ability and the time to gain for himself the heavenly paradise. He has to put forth spiritual effort on earth for the Lord, otherwise he will not escape this place of tortures.'"

The King of heaven said: "For those of you on the earthly paradise mercy is something so very precious: offer charity to others, giving them water to drink, as much as you possibly can. Do this with a pure heart, as I said in the Gospel: 'if someone offers at least a cup of cool water in My Name, he will have recompense from the Lord!' You not only have an abundance of water, but you also have all kinds of other good things which you much share with those who are in need, offering them water above all. Give water, so that the innumerable people who are suffering here can be relieved! This is the very reason why your rivers and seas are so full and never dry up."

Then I found that I was in the very depths of hell. This was not just hell, it was worse. There I saw people and fire, and demons came running toward me with documents on which were written all of my sins and evil deeds. They said to me:" Look, we wrote down here that you served us on earth."

I read all of my sins myself, which were written with large letters, and I was terrified by them. There was fire burning all around the demons, the flames shooting upwards; then suddenly they began beating me on the head and sparks from the fire pierced right into me.

Then, Oh! I heard feeble moans, like the crying of a tiny bird. They were asking for something to drink, and when the fire gave off some light, I saw all of them. They were weak and tortured. They said to me: "See, friend. you came here where we live. Come here to us! From now on you will live here. While we all lived on earth, we had no love for anyone; not for those who served God's churches, not for the poor, we were just filled with pride. We mocked God, serving only that which was godless, and laughed at the shepherds of the Orthodox Church. We never confessed our sins. We never par-took of Holy Communion. The sinners who repented for their sins with their whole hearts, went to church, received strangers, had mercy on the poor, helped those in need, and did other good deeds, all those souls are to be found there, up above."

I was terrified, trembling with fright. It seemed like I was in this place for a hundred years. I felt completely crushed, but still they went on saying to me: "You will be here with us, you'll be tormented for all eternity and will live like we do!"

Then the Mother of God appeared. Light shone all around. The demons fell one by one, and all the souls turned toward her with their weeping and began to pray to her:' 'O Mother of God, Queen of heaven, don't abandon us here alone where we are so terribly tormented. We don't have even a drop of water, and the fire is unbearable." All of them were weeping bitterly.

The Mother of God also wept and said to them: "When you were living on earth, you didn't call to me for help; you didn't pray to my Son and your God. Now I cannot help you; I cannot go against the will of my Son. and He cannot go against the will of the heavenly Father. This is why I can't intercede for you. I can show mercy to only those suffering souls in hell who are prayed for in the Church, and for those pilgrims who prayed, who performed deeds of virtue and who were worthy of mercy while they lived on earth."

While I was in hell I was given all kinds of worms to eat: alive, dead, rotten, putrid. I cried out and said: "How can I eat them? It turns my stomach!"

The demons said: "You didn't observe fasting periods while you were on earth. You ate meat, not worms. Now, eat worms. "Instead of milk, they gave me all sorts of foul things to drink.

Then, we began going upwards, but they were left in hell and began yelling: "Don't leave us, 0 Mother of God.!"

We left the darkness behind, and I again found myself on that same platform. After the Queen of heaven had shown me all of these dreadful places, she lifted her hands to her breast, raised her eyes toward heaven and asked what she should do with me, where should she take me?

The Lord said: "Let her go back to earth. Take hold of her hair and set her free."

Immediately twelve wheelbarrows appeared, but they had no wheels. In order for me to move, the Mother of God told me to lean on them with my right foot and push with my left. I did as the Queen of heaven told me, with her coming along beside me. But when I reached the last wheelbarrow I saw a bottomless abyss. She told me to step down first with my right foot and then with my left, but I told her that I was afraid and feared that I would fall I. She answered that it was essential that I not fall, and she put the thick end of the braid of hair in my right hand. When she let go of it I flew toward earth.

While I was flying, I saw cars moving about on earth and people going to work. I was lying down on the platform in the middle of a new outdoor market-place. I flew gently toward the morgue where my body had been taken. Then, all of a sudden, I was standing on solid ground. It was noon, the third day after I had died.

After the strong light up above, I didn't like being on earth, but there was nothing I could do about it. I went to the hospital, toward the morgue, but it was locked. I went in and looked around. My body was laying on a table, dead, the head turned a bit to one side, one arm dangling down, part of the torso touching another corpse. I don't know how my soul entered into the body, but I immediately felt. cold and pulled away from the other cadaver. I drew my knees together, and just then a dead man whose legs had been severed from his body by a train, was brought in on a bier. I opened my eyes and moved. Those carrying the bier ran off in all directions. Then the orderlies came in with two doctors. They gave orders to have me gave taken quickly into the hospital. There, all the doctors gathered quickly and said that my brain had to be warmed beneath the lights.

This took place at 9:00 a.m. on February 23, 1965. There were eight different incisions with stitches on my body; all the doctors had used it for research and study. After two hours, I was warm, I opened my eyes and began to talk. I was fed artificially for twenty days. Then they brought me something to eat: bread with sour cream, and coffee, but I told them that I would not eat. The nurse tried to convince me to eat, and everyone in the room turned their eyes toward me. Just then the doctor came in and asked me why I did not want to eat. I told him: "Today is Friday and I will not eat non-lenten food. If you sit down here next tome, I will tell you what I saw and where I was during the time I was dead."

The doctor sat down and listened attentively. I began by saying that whoever refuses to respect fast. days: Wednesdays, Fridays, and the prescribed fasting periods throughout the year, in the afterlife will be given worms, snakes and reptiles to eat instead of meat. and instead of milk, he will have to drink the foulest things imaginable. This is the nourishment which is given to everyone who died without repenting before the Holy Altar, before a priest. and without Holy Communion. This was the reason I refused to eat cheese and sour cream.

The doctor listened to me, his face turning red, then white, then red again. Other doctors and nurses had gathered there too and listened to what I was saying about what I had seen and heard on the other side of the grave.

After this many people began coming to me and I told them all which had been commanded me from the other side. Later, the secret police started chasing the people away from the hospital, and I was moved to another hospital in the city where I regained complete health.

The doctors were curious to find out how I came back to life, especially since they knew that my intestines were putrid and that other organs were not only diseased. but decomposed. More so, after my operation, all my intestines had been removed, falling where they may.

In order to discover what had happened, they decided to operate on me again. When the doctor in charge made this announcement, Valentina Vasilievna said: "Why should we operate on her again? All of her organs are healthy."

I asked them not to give me anesthesia since I felt no pain. The doctors operated and removed the intestines. I was awake, watching in the mirror on the ceiling. I asked the doctors what was wrong with me, and they answered that I was fine, with no disease at all. Just then the doctor who had performed the first operation together with the other doctors came in. They all looked at me, at my intestines and said: "But where is the disease" Everything in you was rotten before, but now it is all healthy.''

All of the medical personnel were amazed and afraid. They ran through the room in all directions, holding their heads, wringing their hands, and all were as pale and colorless as a corpse.

I told them: "God had mercy on me so that I would go and tell others and so that you would also learn something, that you might believe that heaven and the Power of the Most High are above us.

They themselves were saying these very same things.

I said to a Jewish doctor: "If you believe all of this, then go, be baptized and have your marriage blessed in the Church." He flushed with confusion.

Valentina Vasilievna, who had operated on me, went out into the hall, collapsed on a sofa, and broke down crying. I asked her why she was crying: did someone die? Did Claudia die? She answered: "No, she did not die, but I am completely stupefied by this miracle which is here before us."

God then helped her to tell me that Professor Newman had tried to convince her to kill me, but she refused completely and was caring for me herself because she was afraid that someone would kill me. She personally prepared my food. The director of the hospital was also amazed, saying that this incident was unique in the history of medicine throughout the world.

When I left the hospital, I called the priest whom I had mocked and accused of being a lazy bum when, quite to the contrary, he was a truly great man. The servant of the Altar of God came, heard my confession in which I laid forth all my sins which I had committed during my entire life; then he administered the Sacrament of Holy Communion to me and blessed my house. Up to that time my home was nothing but a place of filth and indecency, drunkenness, beatings, and things for which were are no words to describe.

The next day I went to the office of the Party and handed over my membership card, since the old Claudia, the atheist and activist, no longer existed. She had died!

I am forty years old. With the help of the Queen of heaven, and through the mercy of God, I go to Church and live a Christian life. I go to various institutes and tell everyone there about what I saw and heard in the life on the other side of the grave. Many people come to me at my home and I also tell them all about what had happened. Now I advise everyone to repent so that they will not have to experience the tortures which I told them about. Repent for your evil sins and behavior so that you can receive remission from the priest for all your sins, and thus obtain eternal life.

I live at 99 Crupskaia Street, Banial, Altaiul County - 1, Claudia Vasilievna Ustignia

Source: http://orthodoxinfo.com/death/miracle_russia.aspx

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Message to all Orthodox Christians from His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos

Dearly Beloved,

Further to our Encyclical of 28th May 2013, in relation to a law which the State proposes to vote upon with regard to Marriage between persons of the same gender, we write to you once again because the Federal Parliament is expected very soon to deal with the redefinition of the concept of Marriage.

You might appreciate, then, should such an Act be legalized, what destructive consequences this will have on the institution of Marriage, but also on the institution of the Family more generally.

As Orthodox Christians, therefore, we are obliged, once again, to express in the strongest possible terms, our objection to the enactment of such legislation, as this will assail the sacredness of the Sacrament of marriage and the Family, as has been taught to us through the Ages by our Holy Faith and by the Fathers of the Church.

In the first instance, of course, our reaction must be through prayer to God. That is why the period of the August Fast for the Dormition of our Lady, which is about to commence, is the most appropriate time to beseech the Theotokos, of whom we ask, as "a fervent advocate and invincible battlement, fountain of mercy and sheltering retreat for the world", to protect the People from such an aberration.

We are also called upon to protest by gathering signatures, requesting the defeat of the proposed legislation. Our protest may be expressed by signing the relevant petitions or via the online internet page of the Archdiocese (marriage.greekorthodox.org.au). You shall receive detailed instruction from our Reverend Clergy.

Hopeful that none of us will show indifference to such an important issue, I thank you for your cooperation in this matter and pray that the abundant blessings of God be upon you all during this blessed period of the Sacred August Fast.

Sydney, 17th July 2015
With fervent fatherly prayers,

Archbishop STYLIANOS
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia

Thursday, July 16, 2015

St Paisios on Humility and Patience

This week, the Orthodox faithful celebrated the memory of St Paisios of the Holy Mountain; the most recent saint to be officially canonised by the Orthodox Church. He passed away on the 12th of July, 1994. St Paisios’ life and teachings touched the life of thousands of people around the world and continues to do so to this day. In 1977, with the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos, Australia was blessed to have been visited by St Paisios. To read more about the life and teachings of the saint, visit: http://www.orthodoxbookstore.org.au/

Here is what St Paisios taught regarding humility and patience: 

"When we patiently endure our problems and turn to God for help, we notice that He gives us the best possible solution. Unfortunately, in our days, people are very impatient. We do not love patience at all. Christ assured us, however, that only the ones who are patient will inherit the Kingdom of God. (“…they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.” Lk 8:15- “but he who endures to the end will be saved” Mt 24:13- “by your endurance you will gain your lives” Lk 21:19.)

“Sometimes God allows for a relative or a fellow worker to cause us problems in order to exercise our patience and humbleness; however, instead of being grateful for the chance God gives us, we react and refuse to be cured. It is like refusing to pay the doctor who is giving us a shot when we are ill.”

“The good Christian must also endure his corrupt supervisors; for they are amazed by his good behaviour, while they are being unfair to him.”

“God does not want us, His children, to be pestered. He gives us temptations and hardships in order to become perfect. Temptations will cease to exist in our life, when we reach the level of perfection.”

“We, Christians, ought to love afflictions and not try to get rid of them; afflictions are necessary means leading to our perfection.”

“When people treat us unjustly, we must be happy, because God’s justice, which is superior to human justice, will protect us. We should either seek human justice, or patiently wait for the justice of God. We must be careful, however, not to pursue an unjust treatment, because this would be unfair on our part and would indicate lack of love towards other people.”

“It is for our own benefit to hope for divine justice, when treated unfairly, and not react to the injustice done to us. Not only we will profit from this, but later on our children will be benefited as well. However, the opposite thing happens, when people curse us and the curse is just.”

“When God sees that we are proud and arrogant, He allows for the presence of temptations in our life. He will take them away from us, only when He sees that we humble ourselves.”

"My mind tells me that even the animals are better than me; so, I humble myself and obey them. Very early this morning, being tired from praying all night and exhausted because of my illness, I lay down to rest. After a while, I heard a kitten miaowing outside my cell as if she needed something. I really wanted to rest, but I humbled myself and went against my own will. I obeyed the kitten and replied to her calling. I went to open the door. It had started to rain and I let her in so she wouldn’t get wet. What do you think then? Should I obey the animals or not? My thoughts tell me I should.

 - Elder, should we practice obedience with discretion, or obey with complete trust without questioning?

He replied:

"After we voluntarily submit ourselves to a good spiritual father who is humble and giving, then we should obey him without questioning. I will give you an example, so that you may understand the way God functions in our lives. Suppose the abbot tells you to go to Iviron Monastery and take the boat to run an errand at Lavra Monastery. And you answer him according to your own logic: “Father, don’t you think it would be of greater spiritual benefit for me to walk through the mountain since I would be alone? The boat is very crowded and I might be involved in useless conversation that would spiritually harm me.” The abbot might tell you to do as you like, because he does not wish to upset you. You, however, must realise that you are acting according to your own will and you are not under his obedience. Thus, God may allow for a mishap while you will be walking through the mountain, i.e. to be bitten by a snake, to fall and hurt your leg or get lost, in order to teach you to be humble and not look selfishly after your own good, but instead let Him do so. On the other hand, if you did not express your own will and obeyed your abbot by taking the boat to Lavra Monastery, then God would have protected you, and He would see that your encounter with the other people wouldn’t have spiritually harmed you.

We should unhesitatingly trust and obey our spiritual fathers. If we think over and examine with our own logic whatever they say to us, then we should know that we are not obedient to our spiritual father, but rather to our judgment and opinion. We must bear in mind that the grace of God is attracted by the simple-hearted people, who humbly trust their spiritual fathers and do not have confidence in their own thoughts.

The aim of complete and trusting obedience of a monk to his Elder is the perfect purification of his mind and the total submission of his own will to divine grace. When a monk is granted this gift then the goal of obedience has been fulfilled and “…against such there is no law” (Gal 5:23).

Father Paisios said that the spiritual work of a Christian should focus on the acquirement of humility.

"God loves man very much; He knows very well the problems of each one of us, and wishes to help us before we ask Him to do so. Since God is omnipotent, there are no difficulties which He cannot overcome, except one. The difficulty God faces, and I repeat, it is the only one, is that He “cannot” help us when our soul is not humble. God “feels sad” because, while He sees His creature suffer, He “cannot” offer any help. Whatever help He offers, it will harm the person because he lacks a humble mindset.

Whatever happens to man, depends absolutely on his humility. For instance, we see a man striving and finally being subdued by one of his passions. God allows this to happen for only one reason: because his soul is filled with conceited thoughts and pride. Perhaps this man hates this specific passion and fights really hard to get rid of it. He will not achieve anything, however, because God does not help him; and He will not help him unless he humbles himself. Although he hates this specific passion, he is subdued by pride, which is the passion that introduces man to all other passions. “Pride is the cause of every passion,” St. John of the Ladder.

Man wants to progress spiritually and asks God to give him love, prayer, obedience and all virtues. We should be aware that God will not give us what we are asking for, no matter how hard we try, unless we humble ourselves. If our only aim is humility, then God will give us everything for free.

God wants and desires only one thing from us: our humility. He does not need anything else; just to humble ourselves, so He can actually make us partakers of His divine grace, which was granted to us through the mystery of Holy Baptism. Although we did not love Him yet, neither had we struggled to acquire His grace, He gave it to us as a gift out of His extreme kindness. He is only asking from us to humble ourselves and respond out of gratefulness and appreciation to His love. Thus, divine grace, which abides in us, will be activated and function accordingly. It will make us love God and get to know Him; it will do everything for us, if we only humble ourselves and allow for it to act. The only obstacle to the energy of God’s grace is our pride, our lack of humility.
St. Peter in chapter 5 of his 1st Epistle helps us clearly understand our fault and tells us what we should do: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.” (1Pt 5: 5-7)

Source: http://www.stparaskevi.org.au/humbleness_and_patience

A photograph taken of the saint when he visited Australia


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Visit to Holy Cross and Pantannassa Monasteries

Last week, FOCUS UNSW, SOPHIA Usyd and the Belmore Youth Committee were very privileged to have the blessing to visit Holy Cross Monastery for a Paraklesis Service. But the blessings didn’t end there! After having lunch together, we were also given the unexpected opportunity to visit Pantanassa Monastery. God’s guiding hand was definitely with us! Thank you to everyone who attended, especially Father Apostolos, and made the day so special. What greater blessing than for us to come together and experience the beauty of the Orthodox Faith!
Group shot at Holy Cross Monastery
Holy Cross Monastery
Chapel of St Ephraim and Isaac the Syrians at Pantanassa Monastery
Catholicon at Pantanassa Monastery
Venerating the icons inside the Catholicon

Thursday, July 9, 2015

On Science and Faith - St. Luke the Surgeon, Archbishop of Simferopol (+1961)

“When we examine contemporary science as developed by scientists such as Lamark and Darwin, we see the antithesis and I would say the complete disagreement that exists between science and religion, on topics that concern the more basic problems of existence and knowledge. For this, an enlightened mind cannot accept at the same time both one and the other and must chose between religion and science”.

       A well known German Zoologist, Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), who was a good follower of Darwin, wrote these words some 65 years ago, in his book, “The Riddle of the Universe” that was very successful and as it seemed, had proved that faith is absurd. So says Haeckel that every enlightened man must chose between science and religion and should follow either one or the other. He considered it necessary that such men should deny religion because a logical man cannot deny science.

       Truly, is this necessary? No, not at all, for we know that many and great scientists were at the same time great believers. For example, such was the Polish astronomer Copernicus who laid the foundation of all contemporary astronomy. Copernicus was not only a believer but was also a cleric. Another great scientist, Newton, whenever he mentioned the word God, he removed his hat. He was a great believer. A great bacteriologist of our time and almost a contemporary, Pasteur, who laid the basis of contemporary bacteriology, he would start every scientific work with a prayer to God. Some 10 years ago a great scientist passed away, who was our countryman, physiologist Pavlov, who was the creator of the new physiology of the brain. He too was a great believer. Would Haeckel therefore dare say that these men did not have enlightened mind because they believed in God?  

       So what happens now? Why even today there are some scientists, professors at Universities whom I personally know and are great believers.  Why don’t all the scientists deny religion but only those who think the same as Haeckel? Because these people believe only in materials and deny the spiritual world, they do not believe in the after death life, they do not accept the immortality of the soul and of course they do not accept the resurrection of the dead. They say that science is capable of everything, that there is no secret in nature that science cannot discover. What can we answer to these?

       We shall respond to them this way. You are totally right. We cannot limit the human mind that searches nature. We know that today, science knows only a part of the things we have of nature. We also understand that the possibilities of science are great. In this they are right and we don’t doubt it. What then do we doubt? Why don’t we deny religion like them and consider it contrary to scientific knowledge?

       Just because we believe wholeheartedly that there is a spiritual world. We are certain that apart from the material world there is an infinite and incomparably superior spiritual world. We believe in the existence of spiritual beings that have higher intellect than us humans. We believe wholeheartedly that above this spiritual and material world there is the Great and Almighty God.

       What we doubt is the right of science to research with its methods the spiritual world. Because the spiritual world cannot be researched with the methods used to research the material world. Such methods are totally inappropriate to research the spiritual world.

       How do we know that there is a spiritual world? Who told us that it exists? If we are asked by people who do not believe in the Divine revelation, we shall answer them thus: “Our heart told us”. For there are two ways for one to know something, the first is that which is spoken by Haeckel, which is used by science to learn of the material world. There is however another way that is unknown to science, and does not wish to know it. It is the knowledge through the heart. Our heart is not only the central organ of the circulation system, it is an organ with which we know the other world and receive the highest knowledge. It is the organ that gives us the capability to communicate with God and the above world. Only in this we disagree with science.

       Praising the great successes and achievements of science, we do not doubt at all its great importance and we do not confine the scientific knowledge. We only tell the scientists “You do not have the capability with your methods to research the spiritual world, we however can with our heart

        There are many unexplainable phenomena which concern the spiritual world that are real (as are some type of material phenomena). There are therefore phenomena that science will never be able to explain because it does not use the appropriate methods.

       Let science explain how the prophecies appeared on the coming of the Messiah, which were all fulfilled. Could science tell us how the great prophet Isaiah, some 700 years before the birth of Christ, foretold the most important events in His life and for which he was named the evangelist of the Old Testament? To explain the far sighted grace possessed by the saints and to tell us with which physical methods the saints inherited this grace and how they could understand the heart and read the thoughts of a person they had just met for the first time? They would see a person for the first time and they will call him by his name. Without waiting for the visitor to ask, they would answer on what troubled him.

       If they can, let them explain it to us. Let them explain with what method the saints foretold the great historical events which were accurately fulfilled as they were prophesied. Let them explain the visitation from the other world and the appearance of the dead to the living.

       They shall never explain it to us because they are too far from the basis of religion- from faith. If you read the books of the scientists who try to reconstruct religion, you will see how superficially they look at things. They do not understand the essence of religion yet they criticize it. Their criticism does not touch the essence of faith, since they are unable to understand the types, the expressions of religious feeling. The essence of religion they do not understand. Why not? Because the Lord Jesus Christ says “No one can come to me unless My Father who sent Me draws him to Me.(John 6:44)

       So it is necessary that we be drawn by the Heavenly Father, it is necessary that the grace of the Holy Spirit enlighten our heart and our mind. To dwell in our heart and mind through this enlightenment, the Holy Spirit and the ones who were found worthy to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, those in whose heart lives Christ and His Father, know the essence of faith. The others, outside the faith cannot understand anything.

       Let us hear the criticism against Haeckel from a French philosopher Emile Boutroux (1845-1921). So says Boutroux, “The criticisms of Haeckel concern much more the ways, than the essence, which (the ways) he observes with such a materialistic and narrow view, that they cannot be accepted by religious people. Thus the criticism of religion by Haeckel is not referred to, not even in one of the principles that constitutes religion”.

       This is therefore our opinion regarding Haeckel’s book “The Riddle of the Universe” which up to day is considered the “Bible” for all those who criticize religion, which they deny and find it contrary to science. Do you see how poor and tasteless arguments they use? Don’t become scandalized when you hear what they say about religion, since they themselves cannot understand its essence. You people, who may not have much of a relationship with science and do not know much about philosophy, remember always the most basic beginning, which was well known by the early Christians. They considered poor, the person who knew all the sciences yet he knew not God. On the other hand, they considered blessed the person who knew God, even if he knew absolutely nothing about the worldly things.

       Guard this truth like the best treasure of the heart, walk straight without looking right or left. Let us not bother with what we hear against religion, losing our bearings. Let us hold on to our faith, which is the eternal indisputable truth. Amen.  

St Luke, Archbishop of Crimea,
Topics and Discussions,

“Orthodox Kypseli” Publications- Thessaloniki  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Communion with God

A Sermon given by Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra at the Church of St Andrew, Athens, 1975.

The man who was brought before the Lord in today's Gospel lesson, my beloved children, is a compelling figure indeed! He was both deaf and dumb, and although he longed to communicate, he could neither hear the words of others, nor give voice to his own thoughts. Above all, he could not communicate with the Lord, to Whom he had been brought.

Faced with the great misfortune of a soul unable to speak to its Redeemer, the Saviour sighed deeply (Mk 7:34), just has He did at the tomb of Lazarus, who had been dead for four days (cf. Jn 11:38). On both occasions our Saviour sighed, because a man who is dead and buried is no different from a man who is incapable of speaking to the Lord or hearing the voice of God.

This is why the Lord addressed only one word to him: Ephphatha - Open! (Mk 7:34). Open ears and hear! Open, mouth and speak! At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak (Mk 7:35). His mouth was opened, the bonds were broken, and his ears began to hear the words addressed to him by God, Who was standing before him in the flesh.

You may think that this event, which took place long ago, has little to do with us. But it seems to me - and I have always been moved by the thought - that all of us are deaf and mute with respect to God. How many of us can say that we've spoken to God, and that God has heard us? How many of us can say that we've heard the words of God; that we've received within ourselves the deep impressions of the divine voice? On the contrary, we are deaf mutes, forever silent and unhearing though standing in the presence of God.

Let us consider, my beloved, the meaning of the word "Ephphatha" - "Open!" Let us consider how God addresses this word to us; let us see how our bonds can be broken, and how we can enter into communion with God.

When we stand before God, we know that, in order to hear and be heard, we must enter into a personal dialogue with Him, and this can only take place by means of the intellect. God is spirit (cf. Jn 4:24), and He communicates Himself to man spiritually, addressing Himself to man's highest spiritual faculty: the intellect. When we open our mouths and cry out to God, God hears us, because He receives the waves of the mind which pulsate outward like sounds from the mouth.

It follows, then, that for my intellect to speak to God, it must first of all turn towards Him. Such a turn is necessary because the intellect is in constant motion, it is forever being side-tracked, thrown off its course, endlessly shifting its focus upwards and downwards, this way and that.

As a result, communication with God requires a movement towards God. It presupposes a passage of the intellect to the creator of the intellect, an exhalation of the mind to the source of inspiration (cf. Gen 2.7); a movement to Him from Whom the intellect came forth, and to Whom it naturally returns.

My beloved, communicating with God requires that the intellect be kept in a certain tension, as if I were about to release it from a sling, and send it flying to God directly, without any deviation from its path. It requires, in other words, an exclusively dedicated movement of the intellect, in which the intellect is free from all thoughts, feelings, concepts, images, and indeed from anything whatsoever that might absorb it, attract its attention, and make it go astray.