Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Sitting in the Crows Nest hall listening to the "youth" of NSW making their final presentations, a thought crossed many minds: "...its a good turn out...but is this all the youth of NSW?"
If not in these words and at that moment, the question was whispered to the person sitting close by at some point during the day.
At the 9th State Youth Conference held on 9th -11th October this year, the youth that did attend were a blessing. Firstly, if there was any more who decided to attend, the lunch hall could not have been any more intimate. But most importantly the youth were a blessing to each other. A month has nearly gone by, but that percentile of youth walked away energised (if that is the right word to capture the feeling of the day). So much so that the request for an annual youth conference was raised!
We have fellow Leichhardt parishioners who attended the day, contributed to this blog entry (see below post) with what they had to say about their experience at the conference.
Did you attend the conference?
What were your feelings from the day?
Was it your first time? And would you go again?
Comment with your thoughts.
To quench our curiosity, youth to youth (by no means will any reports be made), we have set up a poll on the right side bar to ask:
What kept you away?
Please tell us. It will definately be interesting to see the results next month. Until then...
"I have to admit I wasn't quite sure I really wanted to go to the State Youth Conference, even when it came to be a day before the event.
I had never heard of the CYC 12 months ago and never heard of a conference for youth in the Orthodox Church (only Catholic ones from friends).
It was my curiosity more than anything that got me to Crows Nest that Saturday morning. I had reviewed the schedule, but wanted to know what would come from all this?
Cutting a long story short - I am glad I did go. The talks were good (although I did feel a bit too smart for me), so was the organisation and food (talking definitely makes me very hungry!). But it was the people met or met again, that did it for me. The discussion groups were the highlight, when in my preconceptions they were going to be the complete opposite! It was the contributions made from such a variety of feelings, experiences, understandings, journeys and faces...
I'm still not sure what the intention and intended outcomes of the conference(s) were supposed to be or what they are not supposed to be...and that frustrates me. But if there is another conference next year (as requested by the youth on the day), I will be there. Maybe simply because of the shared enthusiasm, enjoyment of the day, and even more importantly the good ideas put forth and courageous questions - were uplifting above any frustration."
"If I were to single out just one moment of the conference, it would have to be when His Grace said how lovely it was that we 'Just spend time with one another'. That simple statement reminded me of a love of a father to his children and a shining example of all things good in Christ. These moments are subtle, and pass by quickly, however if noticed much can be gained from them.
Having listened to so many viewpoints, I came away with a sense of "what can I do to make a difference". To suggest that we didn't need to conclude with any answers, in my opinion, was a soft option. If we constantly seek to glorify God in all that we do, and truly love and have a concern for each other, we can help so many people. We cannot do this fairly with some of the questions not answered, as this clearly illustrates the void that so many are trying to fill. Often it is within the awkward questions that so many of the issues lie, to take ourselves out of our comfort zone for one another, is the building block for change and something that is obviously desperately needed.
The majority of youth want to be loved and accepted and will go to great lengths to achieve this, and if it means not attending church to 'fit in', they'll do it. Lets add in relaxed forums that the youth can freely ask questions about the Liturgy, relationships, life and any other topic on their minds. Lets take the unknown out of it as much as we possibly can and who knows we may just have some fun along the way!!!
Through this and most importantly by the Grace of God, they may then begin to see the vital importance of the Liturgy within their lives. I think so much can be done in prevention of things BEFORE they go wrong, rather than painfully picking up shattered lives after the event.
Conferences are vital, however lets not limit this to lipservice, lets dig through and DO SOMETHING."
Friday, October 23, 2009
"The Ancient of Days, who in times past gave Moses the Law of Sinai, appears this day as a babe. As Maker of the Law He fulfills the Law, and according to the Law He is brought into the temple and given over to the Elder. Simeon the righteous receives Him, and beholding the fulfillment of the divine ordinance now brought to pass, rejoicing he cries aloud: 'Mine eyes have seen the mystery hidden from the ages, made manifest in these latter days, the Light that disperses the dark folly of the Gentiles without faith and the Glory of the newly-chosen Israel. Therefore let Thy servant depart from the bonds of this flesh to the life filled with wonder that knows neither age nor end, O Thou who grantest the world great mercy."
"The Ancient of Days, a young child in the flesh, was brought to the temple by His Mother the Virgin, fulfilling the ordinance of His own Law. Receiving Him, Simeon said: 'Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, O Lord."
Monday, September 28, 2009
as prescribed by St Gerasimos There is not much information about the life of St Gerasimos, who we celebrate on the 20th October and which our church is dedicated to. He is also patron saint of the island of Cephalonia and the Cephalonians throughout the world. We do know that he was born in Trikala in the Peloponnesus and in his adult life traveled throughout various lands (to Zakynthos, Mt Athos - where he learnt ascetic life, to Mt Sinai, Antioch, Alexander, Egypt, to Jerusalem and there he was ordained a priest by Patriarch Germanos. Eventually he settled on the island of Cephalonia and there he restored an old church, building a convent around it where it still stands to this day at Omala Valley.
His sacred relics, which remain incorrupt are kept there for the edification and sanctification of the faithful til this day. He reposed, fell asleep on the 15th August 1579, but we celebrate it on 16th August and the 20th of October occupies his feast day.
What we know about his personhood can be gleaned from the church hymns that are attributed to him. He is: ...the protector of Orthodoxy ...a God bearing miracle worker ...an incarnate angel ...he had a discipline of asceticism (solitude, silence, fasting, vigil, prayer) ...tree planting ...a healer, and over-flowing divine grace that strengthened those with diseases and healed those with demons and unclean spirits. He pours healing for all. We are all honoured and blessed to be a part of this church and graced that this church is dedicated to him.
Now... I'd like to draw your attention to his icon and draw out the meaning behind the words in the scroll that he is holding. It's not only that he is famous for healing, making people better, but it is these words that is the cure. These words are the cure throughout the centuries, but especially the cure for us now. Because they capture the conviction of our spirituality, of our biology, of our behaviour, of our thinking, of our intentions, of our disposition, of our personhood - at a time, and place, and society where everything seems to be haywire, madness, crazy (there is no one without some complaint).
It is not just our society that is crazy, pathological - but in the time of Jesus as well. The gospel reading of Luke 8:26-39 brings this out: Jesus arrived at a country called Gardarene and there met a man from the city who was possessed and was extremely fierce (he wore no clothes/lived among the tombs). When he saw Jesus Christ he fell down before him and said, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?" Jesus heals him. He casts out the demons. The man is now clothed. Sitting at the feet of Jesus. In his right mind.
When the people from the city came to see this...what did they do? "Then all the people asked Him to depart from them for they had great fear." What's the madness, the sickness? The demon possessed confessed Christ as God - a confession of faith - "Jesus, Son of the Most High God". (But it didn't do him much good - because it was lip service). The city dwellers saw someone healed, made whole, cured...and they asked Him to leave. They had God...and rejected Him. Who is the sane and who is the insane?
The words that are captured on the scroll that St Gerasimos is holding in the icon prescribes the cure...the medicine. Not medicine that we take orally, a tablet, cream or intravenously (needles). Not lip-service or affirmations or rituals or habits. But a way of life. St Gerasimos is the example of this way of life. A way of thinking and perceiving things.
His words in the scroll: "ΤΕΚΝΑ ΕΙΡΗΝΕYΕΤΕ ΕΝ ΕΑΥΤΟΙΣ ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΤΑ ΨΗΛΑ ΦΡΟΝΗΤΕ"
The translation: "Children have peace within yourselves - be at peace and don't forget the high, Do, gain the above - the heavenly (and don't be in fantasy)" and (it has a double meaning) "Humble and don't think highly of yourself/proud. Be planted on ground"
All this craziness, madness to pathological proportions (just look at our families, our societies, our cultures), is because we don't have the real God. We have the affirmative God. We have the negative God. We have the self-made God. We have the tailor-made God. We have the smorgasbord God. We have the crystal gods. But...we don't have the real God, as God is.
Now the doing of our medicine, is done every Sunday - in the Liturgy. That is what the words of St Gerasimos means. How do we start off in the liturgy? With God. How many times do we say "peace"?
"In peace let us pray to the Lord"
"Again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord"
The Liturgy is the cure. The Liturgy is the medicine. St Gerasimos led everyone to the Liturgy.
"In peace let us pray to the Lord" - what peace?
"For the peace from above and the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord" "For the peace of the whole world"
The peace descends... "For this holy house and those who enter it with faith..."
"For our Archbishop and honourable priesthood..."
"For this land, its civil authorities..."
"For this city, and every city and country and the faithful who live in them..."
"For seasonable weather, the abundance of fruits of the earth and peaceful times..."
"For this who are traveling by land, sea or air, the sick and suffering, for captives...
"For our deliverance from all affliction, anger , danger and distress..."
"Help us, save us, have mercy on us and protect us, O God, by your grace..."
Everything is in Liturgy. Everything stems from Liturgy. Everything concaves back to Liturgy. One has to be involved in Liturgy...it is the doing of the medicine. The liturgy is the biography of Jesus Christ's life, our God - in the doing. This is what St Gerasimos reminds us of...this is his example. This should be our example in the Liturgy. This is the blessing and task for us being part of this church. So when we venerate his icon, we receive his blessing...to be responsible to his words. Amen.
~ Fr Leslie
Monday, August 31, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
The life of St. Phanourius is told through the one icon that was found of him on Aug 27th, around 1500 A.D. "Phanourius" comes from the Greek word, "fanerono" (I reveal), so it is that from this one unblemished icon that the Archbishop Milos of Rhodes officially proclaimed him a saint...
"He concluded that the unblemished icon was itself a testimony enough to prove that Phanourius was a man of divine grace, and he petitioned the Patriarch to convene a synod which would officially proclaim Phanourius a saint, after which there was erected in the saint's memory a cathedral which enshrined the holy icon. Phanourius, lost for centuries in the ruins of a church, became the patron saint of things lost. To this day his name is invoked when prayers are asked for the recovery of things lost items."*
"The original icon is quite large. In the center is a portrait of the saint holding a candle in his right hand and around this are 12 smaller images showing the each stage of his martyrdom.
The portrayal of each illustration is as follows:
i. The saint is standing in front of a Roman magistrate and defending his Christian faith.
ii. Soldiers beat the saint on the head and mouth with rocks to force him to deny his faith.
iii. The saint remains patient which angers the soldiers. They are shown in this illustration, throwing him to the ground and beating him with sticks and clubs in a further attempt to force him to deny his faith.
iv. The saint is now in prison. He is illustrated completely naked with the soldiers ripping his flesh apart with some sort of iron implement.
v. The saint is still in prison. In this station, he is shown praying to God, perhaps to give him strength to endure his tortures.
vi. Next, the saint is standing in front of the Roman magistrate again defending his position. The expression on the face of the saint is calm.
vii. In this image, it is obvious that the Roman magistrate has sentenced the saint to the executioners for remaining unmoved in Station 6. The saint is again shown naked with executioners torching (burning) his body.
viii. At this station, the executioners are now using mechanical means to torture the saint. He appears tied to an apparatus that rotates to crush his bones. Though his body is truly suffering intensely for God, the look on his face is peaceful and patient."**
Interior of church St. Phanourius, Rhodes
St. Phanourios has become famous for assisting the faithful in revealing lost or hidden spiritual matters of the heart, objects, directing or revealing actions that should be taken, restoring health and similar situations. He is then honoured by the faithful through a symbolic cake, called the "Phanouropita" which can be brought to the church, at any time, put in particularly on his feast day for a blessing.You might of received a piece at the end of service in the past. This year, why not try your hand at baking one of these cakes? If wanting to give it a go, here is the the recipe. (*Excerpts taken from www.saintfanourios.org, ** excerpts and images taken from orthodoxwiki.org) ..........................................................................................................................................................................
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
week three & four
A big thank you for all who attended the short course: 'Desert Community the prescription to city aloneness'. We hope you enjoyed the talks and hope to see you again. By popular demand....
The 12 steps (rungs) in desert spirituality For healing to occur we need to do certain things, at least from our Tradition.
step i - Realising a loss of vision. Brokenness, fragmentation, powerless, surrender, honesty.
In the beginning we were created with an undivided brain, heart and all are actions were united. Come to terms and be honest about your life, your brokenness, your vision (or lack of), your fragmentation...Am I sick? Yes, and you stink!
step ii - Only God can. God comes through wounds. I am powerless. Involves a decision to let God in our lives (therefore: hope, faith & love). "Brokenness is everywhere, but so is endurance, and so is the help of God".
step iii - Reality/ Realisation - us & the world. Therefore no despair.
"Seeing yourself as you are is a greater miracle than raising the dead." St Isaac What is your reality? Say yes to your life and all that you have been dealt with. "What is truth?" (John 18:38) "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Jesus Christ (John 14:6)
step iv - Community, church, liturgy, relationship - not alone.
Where can I take part in community? In the divine liturgy - the biography of Jesus Christ. When I am sick, I go to hospital. God's house (the Church) is the hospital.
Seek a spiritual father or mother, so that one person knows everything that is about you (the good and the bad).
step v - Internal self-examination (prodigal son pig pen). An inner transformation. Free will, choice, desire, will, courage, searching, seeking, struggle, wounds, repentance, tears, peace with ourselves.
Am I like the prodigal son in the pig pen? What are the obstacles you place between you and God? Rise, get rid of the dirt and shine!
step vi - Internal curing/ healing. Inner transformation. Αναστα! You need to talk - so that you can be internally healed. What happens to wounds that are opened? "He who confesses pain is nearer to health. He who doesn't is nearer to hell." St Isaac
step vii - Allowing God to act: He grants, gives, bestows, trust. Allowing God to redirect - healing is the presence of God inside us. Trust in Him. I can't. He can. And I will let Him.
step viii - Allowing God to heal: ourselves/ society - therefore making amends with others. With God's Grace I can change and anything in my way.
step ix - Discernment - to know, wisdom. Examine, guard, watch and be alert - of all your movements, thoughts, feelings and words. It's a gift. Pray for it.
step x - Contemplation, prayer, stillness, meditation. Take time out for oneself, be still...and pray (remember Him). Prayer is a mirror, measure and proof of everything. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy upon me a sinner." "Lord have mercy." "Lord!"
step xi - Action (faith/ works) maintaining ministry. Συνεργεια/ co-operation. Real faith is shown in action. Prayer leads and faith is shown in action. Live in faith, hope and most of love. We are not static - we are different to who we were yesterday. (Thank you Jesus!)
step xii - Mystery of the prosopon. Adopt humanity, be human and do all things in reference to God. Our relationship with God is expressed in our baptismal grace and the prayers once said upon us.
Books... Holy Baptism - Service book by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Available from the Archdiocese book store (email@example.com).
the 13th step.. 'I Love, Therefore I am: The Theological Legacy Of Archmandrite Sophrony'- by Nicholas V. Sakharov If you have a yahoo account you can log into google books and view pages from the book here. Bookstore availabilities: Booktopia, Crossroad Books or The Nile Bookstore.
from week three... 'The Panarion Of Epiphanius Of Salamis' Books I, II & III- Brill Publishing These are the books that were kindly brought in and shown to us. Epiphanius of Salamis was the first to introduce the term "Orthodoxy" and his writings were against the heresies of the church. Look them up at your library and if possible have a browse through. Otherwise you can view pages in your google account here.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
"The road of cleansing goes through that desert, it shall be named the way of holiness." (Isaiah Ch 35:8)
"Some old men came to see Abba Poemen and said to him, 'When we see brothers who are dozing at the synaxis, shall we rouse them so that they will be watchful?' He said to them, 'For my part when I see a brother who is dozing, I put his head on my knees and let him rest.'"Books... 'Sacrament Of Love'- by Paul Evdokimov If you have a yahoo account you can log into google books and view pages from the book here. Bookstore availabilities: Archdiocese*, Fishpond, Christianbook Australia or The Nile Bookstore. 'The Fathers Of The Church - Barsanuphius and John', Vol I & Vol II Bookstore availabilities: Fishpond 'Letters From The Desert - Barsanuphius and John' - translated by John Chryssavgis This is a less expensive version of the above letters. Bookstore availabilities: Archdiocese*, Fishpond, Christianbook Australia or The Nile Bookstore.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
"...during the watch guard of the night, our holy mother heard a mystical voice say to her, "Receive the sailor who will bring you fruit today and eat this fruit rejoicing in your soul." During the Orthros, St. Irene called two nuns to her and said to them, "Go to the convent's gate and you will find a sailor waiting outside. Bring him into the convent. On meeting, the sailor our venerable mother exchanged greetings and asked him from where he was and how it was that he happened to come to the convent. He replied in this manner: "My lady, I am a sailor from the island of Patmos. I had embarked on a voyage with my crew to come here to Constantinople for a certain service I had to perform. When we were passing by the far end of my island we saw on the land a most pious and handsome looking old man. This old man yelled out to us to wait for him. However we were close to the land and there were many rocks there. We had a good wind behind us and we continued to speed along farther and farther away. The old man yelled again louder and at that moment the ship came to a complete stop and this old man began to come towards us while walking on the waves. At that point, he took out of his shirt three apples and gave them to me saying, "When you arrive in the capitol, give these apples to the patriarch and tell him that God sent them to him from paradise by way of His servant John." Taking out three other apples he said to me, "Give these three to the abbess of Chrysovalantou whose name is Irene. Tell her to eat these in fulfillment of the desire of her soul because now I have brought these from paradise." The old man then gave thanks to God and blessed us and immediately the ship began to move and the old man disappeared. I gave the three apples to the patriarch and now 1 am bringing you the other three." Our venerable mother hearing this began to cry from joy and gave thanks to the beloved Disciple and Apostle of Christ. Then the sailor took the apples out of a silk and gold embroidered handkerchief in which he had kept them as divine possessions and he gave them to St. Irene with much reverence. These three worldly and incorruptible apples were so large and so beautiful in their shape and so fragrant that in their physical nature alone they were an amazing sight. The only explanation for the beauty of these apples is that they were from paradise.
Whenever St. Irene would eat a piece of this apple a fragrance would exude from her mouth so strong that all the nuns of the convent could smell it. The entire convent smelled as if it had been washed with a most costly perfume and it truly smelled like paradise."
She died at her convent at the age of 103 saying the following words:
"Master, Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Good Shepherd, who saved us with Your all-holy and precious blood, into Your hands do I give over Your small flock. Protect it in the shelter of Your wings and guard it against the snares of the devil, for You are our Sanctification and our Salvation and to You do we send up thanks and glory to all ages."The Holy Monastery of The Holy Cross (Gosford, NSW) has a chapel dedicated to St. Irene the Righteous of Chrysovalantou. To read more about St Irene - her gift of foreknowledge, her strength under the physical attacks of demons and her life in dedication to Jesus Christ, visit this site. (Excerpts above have been taken from The Monastery Of St Irene Chrysovalantou, www.stirene.org) ..........................................................................................................................................................................