Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Excerpt from the Homily on the Annunciation, by St. John Chrysostom

Again tidings of joy, again messages of freedom, again calling back, again return, again voice of rejoicing, again driving back of slavery. An angel speaks with a virgin, because a woman spoke to a serpent. “In the sixth month”, as it is written, “The Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin betrothed to a man.” Gabriel was sent with the message of universal salvation. Gabriel was sent, bringing the writ of the recall of Adam. Gabriel was sent to the Virgin, that the dishonor of womanhood might be transformed into honor. Gabriel was sent, as is worthy, to rejoice at the pure chamber of the Bridegroom. Gabriel was sent, and the Creator is betrothed to His creation. Gabriel was sent to the spiritual palace of the King of the Angels. Gabriel was sent to a virgin, who though betrothed to Joseph, will bear the Son. The bodiless servant was sent to the spotless Virgin. Sin was sent free towards corruption by the inviolate one. The lamp was sent to tell of the Sun of Righteousness. The morning star precedes the light of day. Gabriel was sent to relate of Him Who is in the bosom of the Father, and in the arms of His Mother. Gabriel was sent to show Him Who is on the throne and in the cave. The solider was sent to cry out the mystery of the King. We know this is a mystery through faith, not one that can be studied in various ways. We venerate the mystery, not a joining together. We theologize a mystery, not a study. We confess a mystery, we do no count it. “In the sixth month, Gabriel was went to a virgin...”

And he [the Archangel] received all the commandments like these [from the Lord]: “Come, O Angel, become a servant of this awesome mystery. Serve this hidden wonder, as an answer to fallen Adam, who will come under my compassion. Sin has made he that is fashioned in my image to grow old, and has soiled my creation, and has darkened where I created beauty. The wolf has scattered my flock. The dwelling place of Paradise has become a desert. The Tree of Life is guarded by the flaming sword, and the place of nourishment is closed. I have mercy on him who was attacked, and I wish to make war with him who fought against him [i.e. the devil]. I wish for all of the heavenly powers to know, but to you alone I impart the mystery. Go to the Virgin Mary, go to the Spiritual Gate, of which the Prophet said: “Glorious things have been said of you, O City of God.” Go to my Rational Paradise. Go to the Eastern City. Go to her who is the worthy dwelling-place of the Word. Go to the second Heaven on earth. Go to the Light Cloud. Tell her of my coming, the Thunderstorm. Go to her who is my prepared holy place. Go to the Bridal Chamber of my incarnation. Go to the pure Bridal Chamber of my nativity in the flesh. Speak to the ears of this rational Ark, to prepare the entrance of my hearing. But do not be fearsome, do not trouble the soul of the Virgin...First cry out to her with a voice of joy, and tell Mariam: “Hail, O Full-of-grace,” that I might have mercy on Eve, who is full-of-shame.”

The Angel [Gabriel], having heard what was spoken to him, said: “Strange is this thing, surpassing every thought to speak. He Who is awesome to the Cherubim, and invisible to the Seraphim, He Who is incomprehensible to all the Angelic Powers, is proclaimed to become nature!”

...But having truly all of this, the Physician has come to the sick, and the Sun of Righteousness has dawned for those who sat in darkness, the Anchor and Calm Harbor to those storm-tossed, the Intercessor has been born for the despised slaves, and peace has been united, and the Redeemer of captives has come, the strong unspeakable Joy and Love and Protection has come for those who are embattled. He is our peace, as the divine Apostle says, through Whom we have all received grace, Christ our God, to Whom belong glory to the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Love for Christ

From the writings of St Porphyrios:

Christ is the summit of desire; there is nothing higher. All sensible things lead to satiety, but with God there is no satiation. He is everything. God is the summit of desire. No other joy, no other beauty, nothing else can rival Him. What is higher than the highest?
Love for Christ is something else. It is without end, without satiety. It gives life; it gives strength; it gives health; it gives, gives, and gives. And the more it gives, the more the person wishes to fall in love. Human love and passion, by contrast, may be destructive and even drive a person mad. When we love Christ, all other loves abate. Other loves have a point of satiety. The love of Christ has no point of satiety. Fleshly love has a point of satiety. Thereafter jealousy and disgruntlement may set in, and may even lead to murder. Love in Christ knows no alteration. Worldly love remains for a time, and is gradually extinguished, whereas divine love continually grows and deepens. Every other kind of love can lead a person to despair. Devine eros, however, raises us up into the sphere of God; it bestows on us serenity, joy and fullness. Other pleasures enervate us, but of this pleasure we can never have enough. It is an insatiable pleasure, which you never tire of. It is the highest good.

We should regard Christ as our friend. He is our friend. He asserts this Himself when he says, "you are my friends..." (John 15:14). Let us stretch out to Him and approach Him as a friend. Do we fall? Do we sin? With familiarity, love and trust let us run to Him - not with fear that he will punish us, but with confidence which we derive from the sense of being with a friend. We can say to Him, 'I have fallen, forgive me.' At the same time, however, let us have the sense that He loves us and that He receives us with tenderness and love and forgives us. Don't let sin separate us from Christ. When we believe that He loves us and we love Him, we don't feel strangers and distanced from Him, even when we sin. We have secured His love, and however we behave, we know that He loves us.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Iconography demonstration

This week we were extremely blessed to have Iconographer Mr Andrew Boucas speak to us and demonstrate the beautiful art of Iconography. To learn more about Andrew's work, visit his website:
Here are some photos from the demonstration:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Discussion on St Gregory Palamas

Today we were very privileged to have Dr Phillip Kariatlis (senior lecturer at St Andrew's Theological College) join us in discussing the life and teachings of St  Gregory Palamas. May this Beacon of Orthodoxy intercede for all of us that we might encounter God in this life, as the Saint so passionately taught!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Never lose hope in your Salvation - from the Evergetinos

A certain brother, overcome by the passion of wantonness, sinned every day. However, each time, with tears and prayers, he would fall before the Master and Lord and receive forgiveness from Him. And as soon as he had repented, the next day, being misled again by shameful habit, he would fall to sin.
    Afterwards, having sinned, he would go to the Church, where he would prostrate himself before the honourable and revered Icon of our Lord Jesus Christ and tearfully confess to Jesus: “Lord, have mercy upon me and take away from me this fearful temptation, for it troubles me fiercely and wounds me with the bitter taste of the pleasures. I, my Master, cleanse my person once more, that I may gaze upon Thine Icon and see Thy holy form and the sight of Thy face, brighter than the sun, that my heart might be sweetened and thankful.”
    And though his lips had just whispered these words, no sooner would he leave the Church than he would fall once again to sin.
    Despite this, however, he did not despair of his salvation, but, returning from his sinful deed, would cry out in the Church the same words to God - to the Lord, who loves mankind - adding the following:     “My Lord, I swear to Thee on my word that I shall no longer commit this sin. Only forgive me, Good and Most Merciful Lord, whatever sins I have committed, from the beginning to this moment.”    
    No sooner would he utter these awe-inspiring words, than he would find himself the captive of this evil sin. Let no one cease to marvel at the sweet love of God towards mankind and at His boundless goodness, with which He each day tolerated the uncorrected and evil transgression and ingratitude of the brother. Indeed, God, because of the greatness of His mercy, persistently accepted the repentance of that sinful brother and his inevitable return. For this happened not for one or two or three years, but for more than ten years.    
    Do you see, my brother, the measureless forbearance and boundless love of the Master? How He continually endures, showing to us kindness, tolerating our terrible transgressions and sins? And what evokes astonishment and wonderment with regard to the rich mercies of God is that He did not become wrathful with the brother in question, though the brother, agreeing not to fall to sin again, continually broke his word.      
    At any rate, one day when all that we have described again occurred, the brother, having fallen to sin, rushed to the Church, lamenting, groaning, and crying with anguish, to invoke the mercy of God, that He might have compassion on him and take him from the sin of immorality.
    No sooner had he called on God, the Lover of man, than the Devil, that evil of old and destroyer of souls, seeing that he could gain nothing, since whatever he accomplished by sin, the brother expunged by his repentance, became infuriated and appeared visibly before the brother. Facing the Icon of Christ, the Devil said to our compassionate Saviour: “What will become of the two of us, Jesus Christ? Your sympathy for this sinner defeats me and takes the ground I have gained, since You keep accepting this dissolute man and prodigal, who daily mocks You and scorns Your authority. Indeed, why is it that You do not burn him up, but rather, tolerate and put up with him? ...Is it because one day You intend to condemn all of the adulterers and the dissolute, and You will destroy all sinners?
    “Actually, You are not a just Judge. But by him Your power is sometimes applied leniently and overlooks things. So, while I was cast from the heavens down to the abyss for a little breach of pride, to this fellow here, even though an immoral man and a prodigal, You calmly show Your sympathy, just because he throws himself down in front of Your Icon.
    “In what way can You be called a just Judge, then? But, as I see it, You receive individual people with great kindness, but ignore justice in general.”
    The Devil said all of this, poisoned with great bitterness, whilst there poured forth from his nostrils a black flame.
    Having said these things, he fell silent. A voice was heard in response, coming forth from the Divine sanctuary, saying the following:
    “O all-cunning and ruinous dragon, are you yet not satisfied with your evil and destructive desire to gobble up the world? Now you have even the nerve to try to do away with this man, who has come with contrition to entreat the mercy of My compassion - to devour him, too? Can you offer up enough sins that, by them, you can tilt the balance of justice against the precious blood which I shed on the Cross for this man? Behold My murder and death, which I endured for the forgiveness of his sins.
    “You, when he turns again to sin, do not turn him away, but receive him with joy, neither chastising him nor preventing him from committing sin, out of the hope that you might win him over. Yet, I, Who am merciful and love mankind, Who counselled My laudable Apostle Peter, to forgive sins seven times seventy (Matt. 18:22), do I not show him mercy and compassion? Indeed - simply because he flees to Me - I will not turn him away until I have won him over. Furthermore, I was crucified for sinners and for their salvation; My immaculate hands were nailed to the Cross, that those who so wish might take refuge in Me and be saved. For this reason, then, I neither turn away nor reject anyone, even if he should fall many times a day and many times return to Me; such a person will not leave My Temple saddened, for I came not to call the righteous, but to call sinners to repent.”
    During the time that this voice was heard, the Devil was fixed in his place, trembling and unable to run away. The voice then again began to say: “We have heard from all that you say, O Seducer, that I am not just; to the contrary, I am just beyond all. In whatever moral state I find a person, in that state I judge him. Look at this man, who a few moments ago repented, having returned from sin and having fallen at My feet with a sincere resolution to abandon sin, and thereby having conquered you.
    “Therefore, I will accept him immediately and save his soul, since he did not lose hope in his hard toil for salvation.
    “Look how much he merits by his repentance before Me, for which he is honoured. As for you, let your hatred be shred to pieces and you disgraced.”     While this was being said, the repentant brother had thrown himself before the Icon of the Saviour. With his face to the ground and lamenting, he surrendered his spirit to the Lord. At the same time that the repentant brother departed to the Lord, a great tempest fell upon Satan, like a fire from Heaven, and devoured him. From this incident, my brothers, let us learn of the limitless compassion of God and of His love of man - what a good Master we have! - that we might never again be disheartened by our sins, but rather look after our salvation with zeal.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Agiasmos Service

Today we had an Agiasmo Service (Blessing of the Water) where we asked God to grant us all strength and wisdom for the new academic year.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Catechetical Homily for Holy and Great Lent 2015

By God’s grace Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church:
May the Grace and Peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you
Together with our Prayer, Blessing and Forgiveness
The arena of virtues has opened; let those who wish to compete enter
(Triodion Sticheron, Cheesefare Sunday)
Beloved brothers and sisters, dear children in the Lord,
Bartolomeu IN ROur Lord Jesus Christ grafts us into His body, inviting us to become saints, “just as He is holy.” (1 Peter 1.16) Our Creator wants us to be in communion with Him in order to taste His grace, which is to participate in His sanctity. Communion with God is a life of repentance and holiness; whereas estrangement from God, or sin, is identified by the Church Fathers with “evil of the heart.” Sin is not natural, but derives from evil choice” (Theodoret of Cyrus, Dialogue 1, Immutabilis, PG 83.40D) or from the evil spirit, since “no one sins, who promises faith,” according to Ignatius of Antioch, the “God-bearer.”
Holiness is a quality that belongs to the Lord as “the one, who offers and is offered, who receives and is distributed.” The celebrant of the Sacrament of the Divine Eucharist, by divine grace offers to the faithful “the holy things for the holy people,” the body and blood of Christ; and he immediately receives from the Orthodox faithful the response to this offering: “One is holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, “who is eaten but never consumed; who sanctifies those who participate.”
In our struggle to achieve “likeness” to God, for which we were created, namely holiness, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Orthodox Church, which aspires exclusively and solely to our salvation, “rightfully proclaimed” one season as a period of special prayer and supplication in order to calm the passions of our soul and body.
This season commences tomorrow as a salvific preparation for the “great and most sacred Pascha of Christ.” We are referring to Holy and Great Lent, which we must live “by offering prayer and seeking forgiveness,” in order truly to taste Pascha “with all the saints,” by becoming “saints,” by confessing before God and people that we are “clay vessels” that are shattered on a daily basis by the evil one, always “falling and rising.” That is to say, we must admit our human imperfection and failure, as well as our insignificance before God, by repenting and repeating day-in and day-out, at all times and in all places – even as we are made “holy” through baptism – that “one is holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.”
Therefore, we call upon all Orthodox Christian faithful – clergy, monks and nuns, as well as all our brothers, sisters and children in the Lord – to transform our life at all times, but particularly during this period of Holy and Great Lent, into a loving effort of preparation before our neighbor so that we might share more vividly from now in the Lord’s Kingdom, the “new Pascha,” whose light never sets. We invite everyone to a life of holiness and spiritual struggle so that the possibility of transcending sin may be granted to the whole world and to us as a “good gift” and “perfect gift.” For “everyone that is born from God does not sin . . . and cannot sin, for that person is born of God.” (1 John 3.9-10)
Let us enter, then, with all our soul, without sorrowful faces but instead rejoicing and delighting, into this spiritual arena of virtues; and let us arm ourselves “with the brightness of love, the splendor of prayer, the purity of chastity, and the strength of valor” in order to journey with the Lord, even as we pray that “He may not overlook us when we are in danger of alienating ourselves form Him.” (Hymn from the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross) Rather, may He render us worthy “to reach His holy resurrection on the third day, which shines incorruption through the world.” (Poem by Theodore, Service on Monday of the 1st Week of Lent)
Beloved brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,
Holy and Great Lent is a period of preparation and repentance as the voice of our conscience, which is internal and inexpressible, our personal judgment. When it finds us doing wrong, it protests vehemently inasmuch as “nothing in the world is more violent than our conscience,” according to the experienced herald of repentance, St. Andrew of Crete. Thus, each of us must be at peace with our conscience in order that “we may offer a mystical sacrifice in the fire of our conscience,” surrendering our passions and offering them as an oblation of love toward our fellow human beings, just as the Lord gave Himself up “for the life and salvation of the world.” Only then will forgiveness rise from the tomb for us as well; and only then shall we live in mutual respect and love, far from the horrific crimes that we witness plaguing the entire world today. In this struggle, we have as our allies and intercessors all the saints and especially our all-holy Mother of God, who through her prayers “washes our conscience.”
Wherefore, we urge and beseech you, as the spiritual father of all our Orthodox faithful throughout the world, to run with eagerness the race that opens up before us tomorrow in the arena of virtues, “neither thinking nor practicing sinful things.” Let us rather walk with God’s grace in order to cleanse our conscience “with the good option” of repentance in the conviction that heaven and earth, as well as all “things visible and invisible” will ultimately emanate the light of our Lord’s resurrection.
If we stand and behave righteously “before the doors of the Lord’s temple,” then we shall be vested with the bright robe of Christ’s imitation and be rendered worthy of the “new drink” that comes from the source of incorruption. Then we shall taste the joy of the radiant tomb of the Lord and be swept inside the Church “to the very depths of the altar,” where “the awesome mysteries are celebrated.” May it be so.
Holy and Great Lent 2015
Your fervent supplicant before God,
+ Bartholomew of Constantinople

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Welcome back to 2015!

Welcome back to 2015! We have just finished 3 days at our O week stall, signing up both new and old members. We look forward to seeing you all this year, we will be meeting every Wednesday from 2-3pm on Level 3 of the Squarehouse in 'The Lodge' room. Here is our schedule for Semester 1:
Week 1
Agiasmos Service with Fr. Athanasios (Blessing of the new year with Holy Water)
Week 2
St Gregory Palamas—Dr Philip Kariatlis
Week 3
A discussion on the Holy Icons and an Iconography demonstration—Mr Andrew Boucas
Week 4
Book stall on the Library Walk Way
Week 5
Holy Week—Professor Angelo Karantonis
Week 6
The Resurrection—Fr Peter Mavromatis
Week 7
An Orthodox Saint of our times: St Paisios of Mount Athos—Fr Nicholas Stavropoulos
Week 8
Book stall on the Library Walk Way
Week 9
The Psalms in the Orthodox Christian Tradition—Mr Tasos Kalogerakis
Week 10
Why does a God of love allow suffering? - Fr Dimitri Kokkinos
Week 11
Bible Study - Professor Socrates Dokos
Week 12
Orthodox Prison Ministry—Fr Stavros Karvelas
Week 13
An Orthodox Perspective on Ethics—Fr Basilios