Visit of His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia

Our Parish was honoured to welcome His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia to our Church on Wednesday 7 August 2019. His Eminence presided at the Paraklesis to the Theotokos, and met many members of our Parish.

Images: Zark Photography
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In Praise of The Theotokos!

Some seven hundred years ago, St. Gregory Palamas delivered a beautiful and inspiring homily regarding the Dormition of the Mother of God and Ever Virgin Mary. Below are some excerpts:

…There is also nothing dearer or more necessary for me than to expound with due honor in church the wonders of the ever-virgin Mother of God…If “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:15) and “the memory of the just is praised” (Prov. 10:7 LXX), how much more fitting is it for us to celebrate with highest honors the memory of the ever virgin Mother of God, the Holy of Holies, through whom the saints receive their hallowing?

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THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS

~ Words of the Church Fathers ~

The Most Holy Mother of God prays for us ceaselessly. She is always visiting us. Whenever we turn to her in our heart, she is there. After the Lord, she is the greatest protection for mankind. How many churches there are in the world that are dedicated to the Most Holy Mother of God! How many healing springs where people are cured of their ailments have sprung up in places where the Most Holy Theotokos appeared and blessed those springs to heal both the sick and the healthy! She is constantly, by our side, and all too often we forget her.
Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Homily on the Dormition of the Theotokos


Do not be irritated either with those who sin or those who offend; do not have a passion for noticing every sin in your neighbour, and for judging him, as we are in the habit of doing. Everyone shall give an answer to God for himself. Everyone has a conscience; everyone hears God’s Word, and knows God’s Will either from books or from conversation with other people.

Especially do not look with evil intention upon the sins of your elders, which do not regard you; “to his own master he standeth or falleth.” Correct your own sins, amend your own life.
St John of Kronstadt

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How to Become a Living Relic

SIXTH SUNDAY OF MATTHEW, Matthew 9: 1-8

In 2015, I went to liturgy in an Orthodox parish in Rome that meets in a vacant Catholic church. After the service, the priest showed me the bones of early Christian martyrs kept there in a cabinet. Rome was the capital city of an empire that put so many to death for their faith in Christ and their refusal to worship the emperor and other false gods. Whether in great cathedrals or humble parish churches, the relics of saints are never far away in such a place. They are tangible signs of holiness.

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Opening the Eyes of our Souls to the Brilliant Light of Christ

Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ – August 6

Have you ever noticed how we often use our ability to see as an image for our ability to understand? We say “as you can see” when we mean “as you can understand.” And we say that people are blind to the truth in order to express that they do not know the truth. There is a deep connection between seeing and knowing.

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FIFTH SUNDAY OF MATTHEW, Matthew 8: 28-34—9:1

Wouldn’t it be nice to find a place of sanctuary, a retreat from the uncertain world that we live in. Finding a sanctuary is an essential element for a healthy spiritual life. The word “sanctuary” comes from the Latin word “Sanctus” which means holy. A sanctuary is a holy place where we can go to find peace and commune with God and with others who also want the same thing. The spiritual life in some ways is a search for sanctuary.

The demoniacs in today’s Gospel were driven by dark forces to choose an unholy place to live in. Tombs were considered to be a place of demons and dark forces. They were not considered wholesome places. There the demoniacs isolated themselves from other people attacking those who attempted to come close to them. The bottom line is that these poor men were miserable. Their choice of dwelling reflected the chaos in their souls. People today try to isolate themselves from others. Many people live like this. They may not be possessed by demons, but by passions and fears that enslave in the same way. Ironically, many come to prefer misery to happiness and they think they will never find a way out. This way of life is the one we are trying to avoid.

There are two kinds of sanctuaries. One is what we see all around us in these four walls. Orthodox Christians build churches as sanctuaries they are filled with holy things, icons, chanting, incense and holy actions: liturgies, sacraments and prayers. We surround ourselves with holy things in order to support us in our journey to the kingdom. Our homes should be sanctuaries as well. In order to keep this place holy we have to keep it clean, pay the bills and improve and beautify it as best we can. But first we have to understand and accept that such places exist.

In this place…our unity in Christ is celebrated and the beauty of the image of God in everyone is celebrated as we gather at the chalice. This place is a true sanctuary of the first kind. Still if the hearts that inhabit the church are filled with hatred and pride even the most beautiful temple will become an unholy place.

The other kind of sanctuary is interior. We call this sanctuary the “heart.” (Nous) “The kingdom of heaven is within you,” The problem is that our hearts also need to be cleaned, maintained and beautified like this building and the surrounding property so that to it can become the sanctuary it was meant to be. It’s why we do not let certain things into our hearts. It’s why we take advantage of the sacrament of repentance. Without proper maintenance the heart cannot clearly reflect the truth that it is the very place where God dwells. The heart is where the struggle that St. Paul describes in Romans 7 is played out: “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil that I will not to do, that I practice.” This mental conflict causes internal suffering; a painful division between the image of God in us and the often unwise choices we make. The spiritual life is designed to bring an end to this suffering by removing this mental conflict. Another problem is that most people think we can create our sanctuaries by just wishing it to be so.

Our church teaches that it is through bringing the heart and the mind together that we are able to create a true sanctuary within where we can go whenever we want to. “There is a time coming,” Jesus said to the Samaritan Woman, “and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23) This does not mean that physical sanctuaries will vanish, but that sanctuaries of the heart/mind will be strengthened in the faithful by cooperating with the Holy Spirit. This is how the martyrs were able to be so peaceful as they gave their lives for Christ. We will be recognized as Christians by everyone because our hearts will be filled with the light of God. We will love our enemies, not because God said we have a moral obligation to do so, but because we are filled with God’s love and will not know how else to live.

One of the things in this Gospel that always makes me think is the reaction of the people. They come face to face with the living God and they ask Him to leave.

Did you ever wonder what kind of people they must have been?

The truth is they are just like you and me. When God entered their world it was very inconvenient. We are much the same. We come to church and we expect to encounter God to hear a homily that says love those around you, be nice, God is supposed to be here in church where He belongs, and the priest should only be involved in the aspect of my life that we call spiritual, but what happens when God invades the rest of our lives? The places that we work, and our homes?

We talk a lot about doctrines, church history, tradition and not much about the practical ins and outs of the spiritual life which, if practiced, will revolutionize how we live. Real change is possible from the inside out! The peace that passes understanding, this gift is something we literally can begin to work towards. It works best if we do this together. If we fast as individuals we miss everything. If we do not go through lent together it becomes just a change in our diet. We must struggle for unity in everything. We should be doing everything together. We have been conditioned and trained by our society to be individuals, not persons, So if one person wants to follow a strict fast or wear a head covering we think good for them, but we do not believe that the churches’ wisdom has anything relevant to say to us today and we will never submit or change anything that requires a sacrifice on our part. We are usually willing to change our ideas especially if we see an advantage because we like being right, but we will not change who we are at the core of our being, we live in the 21st Century and we can decide everything for ourselves. In my mind this is the definition of hell.

By the grace of God, we have not been left as orphans to decide on our own what is true and to be enslaved like the demoniacs. The Gift of the Holy Spirit revitalizes the gifts granted to all human beings and together we cooperate with Him in the purpose of our life…deification.

Life is not a test; it is not given to us to see if we come to a correct doctrinal position, or live up to a sliding scale of some arbitrary moral standard. Life is given in order to restore our souls to its original design- to choose life who is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and where do we find this life?—-only in the Church. And only in the sacraments, the life of the Church.

We have to want our lives to be transformed and healed. Authentic spirituality is not extreme or unreasonable but if we pursue a life that imitates Christ we will begin to feel and look different than the world around us. This kind of life can be practiced quietly with as simple an aim as the pursuit of inner peace. We don’t have to become “crazy fanatics” to practice the spiritual life we just have to embrace becoming who we really are. But, I would say, that if we do pursue this goal, most of the people we know will consider us “crazy fanatics..”

So what should we do? We start by taking a little time to learn the beauty of silence, to pay attention to the present moment, to learn how to quiet the constant and meaningless dialogue in our mind, say a little prayer now and then with full attention. Care for our neighbor a little more than our self.

Notice that there is beauty all around if we are willing to see it. Choose wisely what we will think, say and do. Don’t worry what people will think if we kiss the hand of a priest in public. Slowly, but surely, with such simple practices, our minds awaken, our hearts becomes pure, the love of Christ reveals itself and the light of the kingdom begins to illumine our souls. It is a slow process and it will cost our very lives. But this is the only way to create our inner sanctuary and avoid living in the tombs of this world and live where we worship our Lord in spirit and in truth.

Fr. Gregory Owen

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Saint Panteleimon Great Martyr and Healer

This Saint, who had Nicomedia as his homeland, was the son of Eustorgius and Eubula. His father was an idolater, but his mother was a Christian from her ancestors. It was through her that he was instructed in piety, and still later, he was catechized in the Faith of Christ by Saint Hermolaus (see July 26) and baptized by him. Being proficient in the physician’s vocation, he practiced it in a philanthropic manner, healing every illness more by the grace of Christ than by medicines. Thus, although his parents had named him Pantoleon (“in all things a lion”), because of the compassion he showed for the souls and bodies of all, he was worthily renamed Panteleimon, meaning “all-merciful.”

On one occasion, when he restored the sight of a certain blind man by calling on the Divine Name, he enlightened also the eyes of this man’s soul to the knowledge of the truth. This also became the cause for the martyrdom of him who had been blind, since when he was asked by whom and in what manner his eyes had been opened, in imitation of that blind man of the Gospel he confessed with boldness both who the physician was and the manner of his healing. For this he was put to death immediately. Panteleimon was arrested also, and having endured many wounds, he was finally beheaded in the year 305, during the reign of Maximian. Saint Panteleimon is one of the Holy Unmercenaries, and is held in special honour among them, even as Saint George is among the Martyrs.

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