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


Monday, March 14, 2016

Catechetical Homlily on the Occasion of Holy and Great Lent 2016


 
† B A R T H O L O M E W

BY THE MERCY OF GOD ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE,
NEW-ROME, AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH,
TO THE PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH,
GRACE AND PEACE
FROM OUR SAVIOR CHRIST,
TOGETHER WITH OUR PRAYER, BLESSING AND FORGIVENESS


Beloved and blessed brethren and children in the Lord,


Yet again this year, through the God-inspired words, the holy Psalmist ushers the Orthodox faithful into the “mystery” of Holy and Great Lent, pointing out the benevolence of the Lord and the workings thereof as he cries out, the Lord works mercy and righteousness for all the oppressed (Psalm 102,6). For the Lord satisfies our desire with good things so that our youth is renewed like that of the eagle (c.f. .5).

As we all know, each person, created in the image and the likeness of God, constitutes a temple of the Lord. All the more, those of us who have been baptized in Christ, anointed with Holy Chrism, and grafted onto the olive tree of the Orthodox Church, are temples of the Holy Spirit Who resides in us. This is the case even as we distance ourselves from the Lord by committing sin—voluntary or involuntary—for if we are faithless, He remains faithful (2 Tim 2:13).

Unfortunately, the stain of sin hinders the Grace of the Holy Spirit to work in us. For this reason, our Holy Orthodox Church established the forthcoming period of fasting during Holy and Great Lent to allow us to cleanse ourselves through repentance, and thereby becoming worthy to receive the life-giving Passion and the glorious Resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ. The poet of the Great Canon, Saint Andreas of Crete, urges: Come, my wretched soul, and confess your sins in the flesh to the Creator of all. From this moment forsake your former foolishness and offer to God tears of repentance (Great Canon, Monday Ode 1).

The Church, always concerned about our salvation and spiritual perfection, initiates her members into this period of repentance, urging them all to struggle against the materialistic and covetous way of life, which, as a “heavy yoke,” grounds the soul and drags it upon the earth, hindering its ability to spread its wings toward heaven and the kingdom of God. 

In this way, through repentance and purifying tears, we are clothed again with our original beauty and our God-spun shroud that we lost after the fall, covering ourselves, instead, with the coat of shame similar to the fig leaves worn by Adam.

The fast and abstinence from food, idle talk, and deceitful thought represent the start of the correct, restrained, and temperate use of material goods, with the common good as its goal. In this way, we eliminate the negative impact that irrational use of goods may have upon society and the natural environment. This, therefore, allows for the prevailing of the philanthropic fast, which should not render judgment over the oppressed, but offer mercy, grace and comfort for them and for us on our journey toward the likeness of God (St. Basil Great). 

In this way, a temperate use of goods sanctifies both matter and our lives since perishable matter is not the goal per se of sanctification, but rather, its means. Therefore, according to the evangelical periscope, the fast should constitute a motive for restraint, with a final goal to abound in hope in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13), according to the word of the Great Apostle of the Nations Paul. This holds true even for today’s poor “Lazarus” and for those seeking refuge.

Furthermore, the true spirit of the fast and of abstinence should not be forgotten, since this is what renders them acceptable to the Lord, as James the Apostles teaches: religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1, 27). For we shall not obtain grace—offered to us in abundance through the fast and through abstinence—simply by refusing and abstaining from food. The Prophet Isaiah wonders: Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists; is this the kind of fast I have chosen? (Isaiah 58: 4). The Lord declares, through the Prophet, I have not chosen such a fast, but one that asks you to share your food with the hungry, that encourages you to invite the homeless into your home, and to clothe the naked when you see them (Isaiah 58, 5-7).

Especially in our times, the financial and refugee crises, as well as the multitude of hardships that plague the world today offer to us Orthodox Christians the possibility to cultivate the authentic spirit of the fast, linking abstinence from food with acts of charity and solidarity toward our brethren most in need—those who suffer, the poor, the homeless, the refugees, those who have no place to rest their head (Math. 8: 20), and those who are forced by the harsh conditions of war, challenges, and grief to abandon their paternal homes and to travel amid countless risks,  dangers, and sorrows.

When our fast is accompanied by an increase in philanthropy and love toward the least of our brethren in the Lord, regardless of their race, religion, language and origin, then the fast shall ascend to the throne of God as a fragrant incense, and angels shall stand by us while we fast, in the same way they ministered to the Lord in the desert.

We offer our heartfelt fraternal and paternal prayers to all, that the imminent phase the Holy Fast will prove fruitful and sanctifying, replete of  grace and holiness, and that God will render us worthy and without tribulation to enter into the eternal and life-giving Chalice—the life-bearing Side of the Lord—from which sprang as the fountain of deliverance and wisdom (Great Canon, Wednesday, Ode 4)

May the Divine Grace and the abundant Mercy of the Lord be with you all, brethren and children, so that you may receive, through the evangelical ethos, the Gift of the Feast of feasts and the Celebration of celebrations—the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom all glory, dominion, honour, and thanksgiving now and to the endless ages. Amen.

Holy and Great Lent, 2016
Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant to God

Sunday, March 13, 2016

"The Stadium of Virtue is Now Open"


Tomorrow we enter the most beautiful period of our Church calendar, Great Lent. It is the perfect opportunity to get our spiritual lives back on track as we prepare to follow Christ through His Crucifixion and Holy Resurrection. In today's Matins service, we chanted:

"The stadium of virtue is now open; those who wish to compete, enter therein, girded for the good contest of Lent, for those who compete according to the rules shall receive their laurels rightfully. Taking up the full armor of the Cross, let us do battle against the Enemy. As an impregnable wall, we have the Faith, prayer as our breastplate, and acts of mercy as our helmet. Instead of sword, there is fasting, which cuts every evil from the heart. He who does this shall attain a true crown from Christ, the King of all, on Judgment Day."

As we struggle through Lent, let us remember the ultimate sacrifice that Christ showed for us leading up to His Crucifixion. Below is an extract from a Homily by St Ephraim the Syrian on the Passion of Christ:

Come, observe well
the abundance of compassion,
the forbearance and mercy
of our sweet Master.

He had a useful slave
in the Paradise of delight,
and when he sinned
he was given to the torturers.

But when the Good One
saw his weakness of soul
he took compassion on the slave
and had mercy on him
and presented Himself
to be scourged by him.

I wished to remain silent
because my mind
was utterly amazed;
but then again I was afraid
lest I reject
by my silence
my Saviour’s grace.
For my bones tremble
when I think of it.

The fashioner of all things,
our Lord Himself,
was today arraigned
before Caiaphas,
like one of the condemned;
and one of the servants
struck Him a blow.

My heart trembles
as I think on these things:
the slave is seated,
the Master stands,
and one full of iniquities
passes sentence
on the One who is sinless.

The heavens trembled,
earth’s foundations shuddered;
Angels and Archangels
all quailed with terror.
Gabriel and Michael
covered their faces
with their wings.

The Cherubim at the throne
were hidden beneath the wheels;
The Seraphim struck their wings
one with the other
at that moment,
when a servant gave
a blow to the Master.

How did earth’s foundations
endure the earthquake
and the tremor
at that moment,
when the Master was outraged?

I observe and I tremble
and again I am stunned,
when I see the long-suffering
of the loving Master.

For see my inward parts
tremble as I speak,
because the Creator,
who by grace fashioned
humanity from dust,
He the Fashioner is struck.

Let us fear, my brethren
and not simply listen.
The Saviour endured
all these things for us.