Saturday, August 11, 2012
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Thursday, May 17, 2012
All we need to do is look to Constantinople, and the huge example of Patriarch Bartholomew to see what we can do to help with this global cause.
Al Gore called him the "Green Patriarch" and Time Magazine named him among the "100 Most Influential People in the World Today".
To see an inspirational video of the Patriarch in action, visit the link below: http://www.patriarchate.org/multimedia/video/green-patriarch
God created the world, nature and man, and gave us humans the humbling blessing 'to have dominion over' His earth. But what does this mean? Should we lord over it as if we were gods, or are we called to preserve it as He made it in His infinite wisdom?
Through searching through ourselves and struggling to overcome our passions, we can find the perfect balance to protect the Environment and glorify God. All we need to do is look at the meaning behind the Creation story (St Gregory of Nissan and other Church Fathers can help us understand these passages better). And also, the many psalms and hymns in our Church Services constantly remind us of our duty to the environment. The Ecclesiastical Day begins with the Evening service or Esperino, which starts with the following psalm that reminds us that God is Creator of both nature and us:
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
3 Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
And justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
9 He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
18 To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.
And His kingdom rules over all.
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.
21 Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
22 Bless the Lord, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.
Monday, April 9, 2012
This week, as we know people of Orthodox Christian faith around the world celebrate their Holy Week and Easter. For them, this is a period of intense religious awareness and the best opportunity for personal recollection, change of heart and mind, and enjoyment of the inner happiness of the resurrection. Tonight I thought I would take you for a journey through the stories, the sights, and the sounds of this week, as experienced by most of us Greeks of the Diaspora, along with our brothers and sisters sharing our tradition, and with those of other faiths and traditions who join us in meditation and celebration during this important aspect of our culture.
For Orthodox Christians around the world, the resurrection represents the culmination of the entire ecclesiastical year. It is the climax in the drama of Christ's passion. It is the reaffirmation of life, and as such it is the cause for the Festival of Festivals.
Our listeners may find it odd that most of the time the Eastern and Western churches celebrate the resurrection with a difference of one week or more. The first ecumenical synod, in 325 AD, determined that Easter was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox. That was a mathematical calculation based on the Hebrew lunar year. And it was what the Western churches, mainly the Catholic and Protestant denominations, follow in their celebration of Easter. There was a stipulation however. To wait for the conclusion of the Jewish Passover, and celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after that. The stipulation was based on the account of the Evangelists, describing how Christ celebrated Passover with his disciples, before his passion. So the Eastern Orthodox church, observing the chronological sequence of events, celebrates Easter after the conclusion of the Jewish Passover.
Throughout the week, called Great and Holy, the passion of Christ is recalled. The faithful participate in the services, and through the intensity of the entire liturgical and ceremonial activity, they truly relive passion.
This is a period of intense emotions. From the triumphant entrance in Jerusalem, to the moments filled with anticipation, prior to Christ's arrest, to the painful time of his torture and crucifixion, to the solemnity of the grave, and finally to the joy of his resurrection, the faithful follow his steps, day by day, minute by minute, feeling the pain and the elation, the anger and the catharsis, the cleansing, the serenity and peace.
Next: PALM SUNDAY | HOME
Visit the following link to read a description of each Church Service of our Holy Week:
Saturday, March 24, 2012
I was asked to talk today about Lent, but I think that in this talk we have to take a different angle to what we usually do because I see that none of you are strangers to fasting. The Lenten period is one of the most historical fasting periods in the Church - the only fasting period which precedes it is the fasting before Communion. In the early Church people would have Communion and a communal meal together – called the Agape Feast. But it quickly became abused, so the early saints decided to separate the meal from fasting.
As the Church slackened off over the years the early fathers felt the need to discipline the church, and so instigated new rules to do with fasting. The first rule was that you couldn't just go to Holy Communion. You had to not eat or drink for 6 - 8 hours before Communion. Next was the forty day fast for Pascha, called Lent. Then Wednesday and Friday fasting was created, because it was felt that fasting was of great benefit.
So I want to share some fasting concepts with you. I’ll start, and then we can go around. When I was about your age I found Lent extremely difficult; I needed to eat a lot of food a day. I would eat all my money. Every break I had at uni I would be buying something to eat. It was especially hard in Lent to find foods that were filling enough. Now, I fast more strictly, but fasting doesn't bother me anymore. I can survive on a handful of nuts and water for hours. When I was even younger than you guys, fasting was pure torture for me. However, it added to the excitement of Easter in a purely physical sense.
Thoughts from group:
- As you get older you mature to a certain extent where you don't look at the food as much, but at the other aspects of Easter. You live more simply, it’s a better atmosphere than it is outside Lent.
- Excitement about eating food again on Easter has died down for me. The difficulty of cutting out foods is also lessened because I've been doing it so long. Actually this is a problem for me: because the food aspect is less challenging for me, I get lazy about other aspects of simplifying my life.
Sometimes we see Lent in a negative way, as restrictions, as what I can't do. But if you read the holy fathers who were much stricter in their fasting than we are, they didn't see it that way. Their writings boil down to this - simply, you humble the body or the mind by removing one thing, which leaves a vacuum. That vacuum is quickly filled by God, by a desire to pray and a spiritual connection to God. So, fasting physically but feasting spiritually. In Lent there are more church services, prayers, a focus on repentance, on changing yourself, i.e. spiritual food that you don't usually have access to.
You can’t have both, I should say. You can’t feed your face and have a rich spiritual life as well. Our Bishop once told me to test this theory by having a nice big breakfast one day – bacon, eggs, sausages, everything. Then, he said, go to Church and tell me what sort of prayer you'll have that day.
The relationship between soul and body is deeply rooted in Christianity. We connect the smell of incense with prayer, being hungry on Sunday mornings with Communion and Church. These connections are very real, something you can't undo easily. So too the fathers say, when I fast, my mind is freed for God. My soul takes wings, joy comes into my heart. The joy of doing something really hard is a really great joy: I did it, I made it to Easter.
Practically speaking, what can you do to survive the day during Lent? What do you eat?
- A lot of carbs.
- More fruit than usual.
On a practical note, nuts are a survival food, your form of protein and fat when you can’t eat meat. This is the same of certain fruits and vegetables like avocado.
In terms of your experience in Church, how does it change in Lent?
- There are more services, and a longer Sunday liturgy. The prayers on Sundays are simpler and longer.
- Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts - not really a sacramental service, but a vesper service. The readings are all psalms. There's a little bit of chanting. The priest takes out the Communion from Sunday and serves that. During the week he has dried out the bread which had been in the Communion wine and leaves it covered all week , then puts it back in wine for the Presanctified Liturgy.
The reason we have the Presanctified Liturgy is because in the first centuries of the Church, they decided that they were going to fast from everything including the joy of Christ. So, they would only have liturgies on Sundays. Then they thought it wasn’t right to not commune every day, so the Presanctified Gifts was the solution. As a vesper service, aka evening service, they also wouldn't eat all day – which was an addition to their Lenten practise.
- Salutations to the Theotokos - not strictly Lenten practice, only the Greek Church has these during Lent. These services are specifically attached to thanksgiving to the Theotokos, because it was felt that Panagia had specifically helped the Byzantine church in the 7th century from attack by barbarians.
- Apotheipna (evening prayer service) – another of those things the Australian Orthodox church has decided to do. One of these services every night except for Wednesday, which has the Presanctified Liturgy.
All of that however is a vehicle. A channel, something that carries us, not an end in itself. They are a vehicle, they do not serve a purpose in their own right but only to take us somewhere. They are a vehicle for further repentance, a time to kill your old self off and change to your new self. Where do they take us, if we choose to adopt them? And I have to say this because many people deal with fasting as its own entity, in its own right.
It takes us to Paradise, to Christ. Everything in the church, the incense, the music, all of this is a vehicle to take us to Christ. And if they're not taking us to Christ then we are wasting our energies and our efforts.
How do they take us to Christ? All this stuff, we'll add it together.
- When we do these things, we deprive ourselves, Christ comes to us.
What does going to Christ even mean?
- Reaching likeness of God, having Christ inside us.
Have you ever loved anything do much that it absorbed you completely? A game, maybe, when you were a kid, a sport? If you're not doing it then you're thinking about it, if you're not thinking about it then you're watching it, if you’re not watching it then you’re reading about it ... Same with being in love with someone. They're in your pores, you breathe them. It is the same with Christ. He is all you think about. Same thing - except, it's God. Our Creator.
The way of connecting our soul to God is to use the body. But the body is only a trigger. Fasting is a trigger. It’s the starting point, not the end point. But you have to maximise that trigger in order to feast on the joy of Christ, to allow that mystical thing to happen that no one really understands where Christ allows us that joy.
Sometimes God does what our loved ones do - comes and gives us a big hug out of nowhere. But most if the time we have to work for that sensation of love.
Fr Stephanos (the Abbott of Pantanassa Monastery) once said, “You know, you can never leave God. He's always there. You just become unreceptive to Him. You go from being a sponge to a rock. Did God change? No, you did.” And what does Lent have to say; okay, let's take those rock qualities and turn them back into sponge qualities. That's why the fathers say: let's fast, let's confess in order to soften our hearts. So when God does come, we are ready to receive Him. So if we are mechanically fasting, give it some purpose through prayer.
One thing the Australian church especially has forgotten is charity during Lent. Acts of love. It doesn't work to fast and not give charity. The Church in Greece connects Lent with fundraising for charity. And charity can be as simple as putting your arm around someone. Connect that to fasting and you begin to be like Christ. Then Easter becomes your resurrection. The old you has died and the new is born.
There is a speech we all love by St Chrysostom at the end of the Pascal Liturgy, where he says even if you've come at the last hour and you haven't fasted, the table is still full. The feast of joy you partake in after Lent is not only symbolised by the meat, the eggs. The food is a symbol only, not the goal of Lent.
Thank you for having me.