A Sense of Wonder

 
The story of Christ’s birth speaks to us about the mysterious ways of God. The Triune God acts in ways that we do not always expect! His ways are truly wonder-filled. For centuries, the Ancient Israelites had expected the Messiah. The prophets, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah, called the people to readiness and openness to God’s actions. Their message provided the people with indications about the coming Messiah.

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The Magi and the Infant Jesus

~ (Bishop) Themistocles Adamopoulos

In the nativity account according to the Gospel of Matthew we read that when Jesus was born an astronomical event occurred – the appearance of a unique star in the east! As a consequence, Magi arrived in Herodian Jerusalem, from the East, inquiring about a “new-born king”; for whom they had come to offer worship, follow the star to Bethlehem and offer expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus:

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem saying. . .

“Where is he was has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him” ( Matthew 2:1-2)

” . . and lo, the star, which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was” (Matthew 2:9) Continue reading

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13th SUNDAY OF LUKE, Luke 18: 18-27

In just about any activity, we can get so caught up in following the rules that we miss the larger point. Sometimes we do that due to our own pride, our sense that we simply have to achieve perfection in order to be worthwhile. Of course, what we are really showing then is that we think that it is all about us and our ability to be right by our own standards. But when circumstances arise that make clear that it is not all about us and that we are not perfect, it can lay us low. That is exactly what happened to the rich man who encountered Jesus Christ in Sunday’s gospel lesson. Continue reading

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The Garden of the Holy Spirit: Saint Iakovos of Evia

Holy Elder Iakovos Tsalikis of Evia reposed in the Lord on November 21 on the Feast of Hesychasm in the Entrance of the Theotokos. Commemorated on November 22

The Garden of the Holy Spirit is a spiritual biography describing the life of a contemporary Greek Orthodox Elder, Iakovos Tsalikis, abbot of the Monastery of Saint David in Evia, Greece. The Elder’s biography begins with his family’s flight as refugees from Asia Minor to the island of Evia. It follows with a description of the Elder’s early life, especially his upbringing in the faith by his pious mother, his asceticism, and his love for prayer and the sacred Church services.

From a young age, the spiritual diligence and self-sacrifice of Iakovos was rewarded by God with an abundance of spiritual gifts, and the book recounts miraculous instances of the power of his prayers.

At one time when the children of his village contracted mumps, their parents gathered them all to see Iakovos who was then just a teenager. After reading prayers for them and blessing them, the children instantly became well. After the patient struggles of Iakovos in the world, he entered into the monastery of St David. There, the young monk faced harsh trials as he performed his monastic duties. He endured temptations from the older monks as well as the demons. The author imparts his intimate knowledge of St Iakovos’ ascetic practices which enables the reader to follow his path to sanctity.

Apart from the labours of his monastic obedience and frequent illnesses, St Iakovos undertook the further spiritual exercise of keeping all-night prayer vigils at the hermitage of his predecessor, St David of Evia. His asceticism and patience formed him into a charismatic Elder with spiritual vision. The gifts he was graced with included seeing angels and saints before him when serving at the altar, and seeing the sins of those who came to him during confession before they opened their mouths. Many more examples of St Iakovos’ spiritual gifts are given in the book which acquaints the reader with the life and spiritual journey of this inspirational modern Orthodox saint.

~ Professor Stylianos Papadopoulos

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The Rich Fool – Against Greed and Anxiety

9th Sunday of Luke, Luke 12:16-21

Life is a gift of God. No amount of possessions, however abundant, can make it greater or give it security. The notion that life consists in possessions, in ‘having’ (the constant requirement of more), is cut in this ‘pericope’ by the understanding that life cannot be secured by possessions, that existence is a gift outside human control. Continue reading

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Man’s Fall and Redemption

8th SUNDAY OF LUKE, Luke 10: 25-37

In Luke 10:25–37, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, which many Christians have seen as a parable of man’s fall and redemption. Such an interpretation is usually elaborated in three steps.

First, there is the story of the fall, concerning which we are told, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” This man started in Jerusalem, in the garden place of God’s presence. But he did not stay there. He made a deliberate decision to go down on a journey. No one told him to go. He made the decision on his own, as an assertion of his independence. “Man, though in honour, does not remain,” says the psalmist; “He is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:12).

These robbers did not kill the fallen man completely. They left him half dead. Even fallen, he did not suffer total depravity. There was still some chance for him, though he had no way of saving himself from his terrible predicament. By this man’s disobedience, in fact, sin entered the world, and by sin death. Indeed, death reigned already in his mortal flesh. How shall we describe this poor man’s plight except that he was “alien from the commonwealth of Israel and a stranger from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12)? He had been left half dead, and there was no help for him in this world.

Along came a priest and then a Levite, men representing the Mosaic Law, but they had to pass by the fallen wayfarer, because by the works of the Law is no man justified. The priest and the Levite were hastening to the temple in order to offer repeatedly the same sacrifices that could never take away sins. Indeed, matters were made even worse, because “in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3–4).

Secondly, a Samaritan, “as he journeyed, came where [the man] was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.” In the fullness of time, that is to say, God sent His Son to be a good neighbour to him who fell among the thieves. This Son, being in the form of God, did not think equality with God a thing to be seized, but He emptied Himself and took the form of a servant. Indeed, this Son became an utter outcast—in short, a Samaritan, a person without respect or social stand- ing. Although He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich.

What did the Samaritan do for the man that fell among thieves? He washed him in the waters of baptism, cleansing his wounds, and into those wounds He poured His grace in the form of anointing oil, the holy chrism, and the Eucharistic wine to prevent infection.

Our Samaritan did not leave beside the road this half-dead victim of the fall among thieves. On the contrary, “he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” And then he went away. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. This Samaritan is also the great High Priest that entered once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. But even as He went away, He said to the innkeeper, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”

And this promise brings us to our third point. Our Samaritan says to the innkeeper, “when I come again.” He does not say, “if I come again,” but “when I come again.” There is no “if” about the return of this Samaritan. This same Samaritan, who is taken up from us into heaven, shall so come in like manner as we have seen Him go into heaven. We solemnly confess, then, that He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, apart from sin unto salvation.

All of history is given significance by the two visits of the Samaritan. Only those who abide in the inn awaiting His return really know the meaning of history. The inn is the house of history, the Church where the innkeeper cares for the Samaritan’s friends.

This parable does not describe that return of the Samaritan. It says simply “when I return.” The parable leaves that return in the future. The story terminates in the place where the Samaritan would have his friends stay—at the inn. It is imperative for their souls’ health that they remain within this inn, to which our Samaritan has sworn to return. In this inn His friends pass all their days as in eagerness they await His sworn return.

~ Fr. Patrick Reardon

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Just Reach Out in Humble Faith

Homily for the 7th Sunday of Luke in the Orthodox Church Luke 8:41-56

Even in a small parish, it is not hard to see that people are different from one another in many ways. We have different interests, personal backgrounds, and opinions on all kinds of things. We do not all look or dress alike. But what we have in common as Orthodox Christians is far more profound than any of that. Our salvation is not in any conventional human characteristic or endeavour, but in the healing mercy of Jesus Christ.

In last Sunday’s gospel passage, two very different people approached Him in humble faith and received new life as a result. Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue, an upstanding man in the Jewish community. We do not know the name of the other person, but she had little in common with Jairus. She was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, and had spent all her money on treatments that did not help her. She was not only poor, but also considered unclean because of the flow of blood. As a result, she would have been alone, for anyone who had physical contact with her would also become unclean. She could not even enter the Temple or have a normal social life.

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All Saints or Halloween?

“Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report…meditate on these things…and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8,9)

“Hallow” is an ancient form of “holy,” and “een-even” means “eve,” thus Halloween is the eve of all saints. As celebrated in America, it recalls an ancient pagan religion brought from England, having originated from the Celtic end-of-harvest festival of the dead. Imagine explaining it to a visitor from another land who never heard of it.

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The Rich Man and Lazarus

5th SUNDAY OF LUKE, Luke 16: 19-31

A number of messages can be drawn from the severe contrast this parable presents between the earthly lives of the rich man and Lazarus and also their experiences in the next life.

The first message is that there is a life after death and that what we do in our earthly lives will determine how we will experience eternity. It was not the rich man’s wealth as such that condemned him. The reference to Lazarus being carried by angels to “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16: 22) (Abraham was a wealthy man during his earthly life) confirms that wealth, when used properly and in accordance with God’s will, does not deprive a person of the eternal kingdom. Rather, it is the misuse of wealth, especially as a means to super-feed one’s egoism and self-centredness that results in the loss of the eternal kingdom.

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SEED AND SOIL

4th SUNDAY OF LUKE, Luke 8: 5-15

“And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold” (Luke 8:8)

A seed contains a miracle. When you look at it from the outside, or touch it, it appears hard, dry, perhaps even dead and incapable of producing anything. But place it in the ground, give it water and warmth, and life begins to stir. The outer shell dies but the inner kernel comes alive by the mysterious forces of growth. The inner powers of the kernel are released when the seed is in proper soil and receives adequate moisture. The kernel germinates and new life begins. As long as nourishment is provided, growth continues. From the seed comes a flower, a plant, or a tree, each of which was present only potentially in the seed. Continue reading

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