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John 7:37-52, 8:12 ~ Save and sanctify all who know You as God

I will try to say a few words to analyse this sublime line taken from the hymn for this great day of Pentecost.

In Cyprus, the suffering island, where Greek Orthodox identity is more purely, fully and faithfully upheld, they call this day ‘the day of the flood’. Which means that the heavens and God Himself flooded the world – not with threatening waters, as when the world was destroyed in the time of Noah. Instead, He has flooded the world with endless gifts, which the life-giving death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, has opened up for all of us on earth.

That is why this is a great and unrepeatable day. Within it, the whole mystery of the divine Economy reaches its pinnacle. God became flesh for this day. Christ was sacrificed for us to reach this day, to reconcile us with God the Father, to wash us of our sins.

And who among us does not have sins? Not only the original sin! This is the least of our concerns today, unfortunately. It was a great sin, but we are washed of it in our Baptism.

Each of us has their own sins: sins of the day and sins of the night, our immeasurable sins. I with mine, and you with yours. However, we are cleansed of these sins by the death of the God-Man, the Theanthropos. It is the precious and holy Blood of the Lord which cleanses us of our sins, and washes us in the font of regeneration. It offers rebirth.

And after all this, the springs of the Holy Spirit gush forth today.

Following the Ascension, God sends the Holy Spirit to guide us unto all truth, and only in so doing is the knowledge of God made complete.

We worship God the Father; we have come to know God the Son as a man; today we shall meet the Holy Spirit poured out, proceeding, being distributed but not divided, in the form of tongues of fire.

After all was finished, we can say that we have now come to the knowledge of the true God. We no longer believe in idols. We no longer believe in ourselves. We believe in God. Not an imaginary god, but God in Trinity. We are, then, “those who know God”. We have come to the awareness of truth. We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit. Precisely what we chant at every Liturgy!

However, more is needed. When we know God, and when we confess the true God while knowing the truth, we still need the forgiveness, pardon, benevolence and mercy that come from above. This is why we chant “Save and sanctify all who know You as God”.

It is not enough for us to be saved. It is not enough for Him to take us from the left where the goats are, and deliver us to the right where the sheep are. It is not enough for Him to make us righteous after we were sinners. It is not enough for Him to turn us, out of children of wrath, into children of light and obedience and adoption and love. Justification is not enough for us. We want sanctification.

This is why the cry of the Church reaches sky-high; we heard it in the hymn we chanted this morning: “Save and sanctify all who know You as God”. Not just a few people, or even many people – but all!

This is the prayer of the Church. This is the wish of the Church today. This is the supplication of the Church today. This is the proclamation of the Church today. That no one is condemned forever to death and decay. Because to those who were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, light has shone in Christ. Now there is light, life, salvation and sanctification. But if even one person remains outside the kingdom of God, we will have sorrow. If only one loses salvation, humanity will mourn.

Because He created all people out of nothing; all creation is His.

For this reason, the flood of the Holy Spirit today will cleanse, enlighten, save and sanctify.

Let us honour this great day with repentance, with edification, with doxology towards the Trinitarian God. Amen.

Writings & Homilies of Archbishop Stylianos of Australia

Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Feast of Pentecost
This great Feast of the Church is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom on the Sunday that is the fiftieth day after the celebration of Pascha. The Liturgy is conducted on the day of the Feast, and is preceded the evening before by a Great Vespers service and on the morning of the Feast by the Matins service. On the day of the Feast a Vespers service is conducted that includes the kneeling prayers. These prayers mark the beginning of the practice of kneeling during the Liturgy at the time when the holy gifts of bread and wine are consecrated as the body and blood of Christ.

The practice of kneeling has been suspended during the Paschal season. On the Monday following the Feast, the Divine Liturgy is conducted in commemoration of the All-holy and Life-creating and All-powerful Spirit, Who is God, and One of the Trinity, and of one honour and one essence and one glory with the Father and the Son.
From the Synaxarion of the Feast

Prayer of the Holy Spirit
Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things, the Treasury of good and Giver of life: come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every impurity and save our souls, Gracious One. Amen.

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‘But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you’ (John 14:26).

What practical meaning have these words other than that we must pray every day that the Holy Spirit be sent to us, just as we pray every day for Our daily bread?

God is willing every day to send us the Holy Spirit, but He seeks from us that we pray every day for Him to be sent to us. For as, with regard to bread, there is sometimes abundance and sometimes dearth, so it is with regard to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to us and leaves us according to our good works and our patience. Therefore the Church has ordained that the first morning service in church begin with the invocation of the Holy Spirit: ‘O heavenly King, O Comforter, Spirit of truth – come!’, and after that comes the prayer: ‘Give us our daily bread.’ Why? Because, without the Holy Spirit, we cannot even make use of bread in the way that we must for our salvation.

‘He shall teach you all things.’ That is: every day and every night, according in the situation in which you find yourself, He will instruct you, advise you and direct you in what you must think, say and do. Therefore, ask God only for the Holy Spirit, and He will Himself bring all that you need in any given moment. When He has descended upon you, you will know all things and be capable of all that is needful.

‘And bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you’. That is: do not fear that you will forget My teaching and My words. The Holy Spirit knows all that I know; so, when He is present with you, then all My teaching will be present in you together with Him.

O Lord the Holy Spirit, be pleased to descend upon us, not according to our merit but according to the merit of the Lord Jesus, and according to Thine endless goodness. To Thee be glory and praise forever.

St Nikolai Velimiroviċ, The Prologue from Ochrid

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John 17: 1-13

Today we remember the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of 325 A.D. The Church brings into remembrance those faithful Fathers who defended the Apostolic Faith in the face of one of the greatest challenges to the truth of Christ. We remember so that we may be vigilant in our own day and in our own lives to safeguard the truth of Christ that we may truly know Christ.

It’s important to remember that the Council was summoned to respond to the challenge of the priest Arius, who propagated the erroneous belief that “there was a time when (Christ) was not.” Arius denied the eternal divinity and being of Christ, believing Him to be a creature of God’s making. The Fathers retorted that Christ is “Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father,” which we continue to believe as Orthodox to this day.

Doctrine matters: it safeguards our thinking, our knowledge of God, and therefore, our ability to know God as He’s revealed Himself. Christ says in today’s Gospel: “this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent… And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

If Christ were not truly God, truly divine as the Father is divine, then He could not defeat sin and death on our behalf. He could not renew, re-create, human nature on our behalf, making a way of salvation for the fallen race of Adam. It’s in knowing Jesus Christ as He’s revealed Himself to be to His Church, that we’re saved. Were He a creature like us, He could do nothing.

As St. John the Theologian testifies at the beginning of his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The same Word that created all life is the very Word that took on human nature to renew that life and defeat sin and death, creating a new race of man capable of “putting on Christ” and likewise becoming victors over sin and death by virtue of that sacramental relationship with Christ.

This is the wonderful truth we testify to in our celebrations of Pascha and Ascension. Christ God has completed His salvific mission to redeem the fallen race of Adam. He’s gone up with a shout to where He was before so that we who have put on Christ in baptism and are living out our baptism, may likewise be transformed, resurrected, and ascend to heaven as well.

St. Athanasius the Great, defender of Orthodoxy against the Arians, puts it this way, “It was in the power of none other to turn the corruptible to incorruption, except the Saviour himself, that had at the beginning also made all things out of naught; and that none other could create anew the likeness of God’s image for men, save the Image of the Father” (On the Incarnation).

The faithful Orthodox Fathers of that age rightly understood that Arius threatened the salvation of many and had to be condemned so the right faith (Orthodoxy in the Greek) could continue to be proclaimed. Only in this way would generations hence continue to come to know and be in communion with the One true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In our own day, we hear people making Jesus into whomever they want Him to be, whatever suites their lifestyle, their own ‘personal’ beliefs, what they’ve decided Jesus to be. Modern man has flipped the axiom: it’s no longer we who need changing, conforming to the likeness of God, but rather, God whom we think to change and conform to our likeness or that of our culture and its humanism. Needless to say, this won’t work – we’ll have made of God a ‘straw man’ who isn’t the God who’s revealed Himself to us, and, who alone has the power to save us.

A watered-down Jesus, representing some non-judgmental, vague notion of ‘humanity,’ ‘peace,’ ‘friendship,’ whatever, is not the same Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, co-eternal with the Father, who loves all by calling them to repentance, healing, and salvation, to new life in Him by ‘water and the spirit,’ baptism and chrismation (John 3).

Many today say that they are ‘Christians,’ but they want Jesus without the Christ and Christianity without the Church, which turns out to be rather another ‘man-made’ religion. Christ on our terms is a god we’ve made and not the God who has revealed Himself to us through His Church and who alone can illumine and enlighten us, bringing us healing form our
sin-sickness and grant us salvation, eternal life with Him who has no beginning.

What does it mean to ‘have Jesus’ if we water down the Gospel or conform it to our culture to become more ‘inviting’ at the expense of the fullness of the truth? If Jesus is ‘dumbed-down’ then whose likeness are we acquiring? If Jesus is my friend but not truly my Saviour, then I’m still stuck in my sin-sickness because I’ve not recognized that I’m a sinner who needs a Saviour.

Indeed, Christ commanded His disciples, the Apostles whom He sent, to baptize in the Name of the Holy Trinity AND to teach the people “ALL that I have commanded you,” i.e., not just some of the truth, but the fullness of the Truth He is.

While we decry the dumbing down of Christ we see in much of the non-Orthodox Christianity around us, we as Orthodox also must judge ourselves: If we know the fullness of the truth of Christ and come to church every weekend but aren’t striving to live the faith, struggling to incorporate it into our daily lives, fervently praying to God for continued growth and illumination, then a change in our priorities, in our hearts, is also required of us.

Salvation has always been for Orthodox Christians communion (koinonia), participation in the life of God the Holy Trinity. When we receive Christ God into ourselves through the Holy Eucharist, when we participate in the sacramental life of His Church, when we pray, when we worship Him, we are growing in that life that He alone is. We don’t need just part of Jesus, or Jesus on our terms, or just some of the tools of salvation Christ entrusted the Church; we need all of Jesus Christ – the whole Life that He is, that is in Him alone and that’s been revealed and lived faithfully in the Church for 2,000 years.

That Christ, who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” convicts us, helps us, saves us, heals us, and grows us into the fullness of godly manhood, womanhood that we’re created to be as part of the new race of Adam. We safeguard the Orthodox Faith by living out this faith in our daily lives, as we ‘run’ the race of faith, witnessing to the truth that Christ is and in whose likewise we are being conformed. In this way, we keep the Apostolic Faith alive, which has its fullness only in the Church of the Councils. And so, we ask the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council to pray for us and for our salvation this day that we may keep and live the true Orthodox faith in Christ, that believing, we may come to know the One true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent for this is eternal life!

Fr. Robert Miclean

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A new miracle of St Luke, Archbishop of Crimea, has occurred in the ancient Greek region of the Argolid, in the city of Argos.

A young man named Christos Argiropoulos, son of the Argos State Philharmonic Society’s conductor, says that he took to St Peter’s Church a piece of cloth, saturated with oil from St Luke’s Relics. On March 30 he met with his friend, the owner of a shop in Argos, and gave him a small piece of the cloth with the saint’s blessing, as his friend had had serious problems with his spine. Movements that would be ordinary for a healthy person were extremely difficult for him: in order to get into a car he had to bear 20 minutes of pain.

Less than half an hour later, the friend called him, weeping with joy: as soon as the sick man came home, his mother anointed him with the oil from the relics. The young man at once felt that something was coming out from within; all the pain that had been tormenting him for so long time were disappearing!

After some time, Christos Argiropoulos met with his friend again. The latter began performing acrobatic tricks before him right on the pavement, crying and laughing at the same time.

May we have the blessing of St Luke the Physician, and all the Saints.

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On the Feast of the Ascension, the Orthodox Church does not merely commemorate an historical event in the life of Christ. On this day, the Church celebrates Christ’s physical departure from the world and His glorification with God the Father.

For forty days after His Resurrection, Jesus remained on earth. Filled with the glory and honour of His Divinity, He appeared to His Disciples at various times and places. By eating and drinking with His followers and conversing with them about the Kingdom of God, Jesus assured them that He was truly alive in His risen and glorified Body. (The glorification of Jesus refers to His Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven. When we speak of Christ’s glorified Body, we refer to Its honour, splendour, majesty and visible radiance – it gave off rays of bright light!)

The time span of forty days is used symbolically in the Holy Scriptures and by the Church to indicate that an appropriate amount of time has passed for “completeness”. [The rains of the great flood lasted for forty days. Christ prayed in the wilderness for forty days. We fast for forty days to prepare before the feasts of the Nativity and the Resurrection (Pascha).]

Ascension falls on the fortieth day after the Resurrection. On this day, Jesus appeared to His Disciples and gave them His last commandment – to preach the Kingdom of God and the repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name to all nations, beginning with Jerusalem. Then He led them out of Jerusalem toward Bethany to the Mount of Olives. He lifted up His hands and blessed them. As His Disciples were looking on, He was lifted up – or “ascended” – and a cloud took Him out of sight. While they were looking up, two angels in white robes appeared and said to them: “Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus, Who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same was as you have seen Him go there.”

The Ascension is, therefore, a sign and symbol of the Second Coming. Christ will return to the earth in the same manner as He left it. When the risen Lord returns again in glory, God’s will for mankind will be fulfilled.

Jesus completed His earthly mission of bringing salvation to all people and physically was lifted up from this world into heaven. The meaning and the fullness of Christ’s Resurrection is given in the Ascension. Having completed His mission in this world as the Saviour, He returned to the Father in heaven Who sent Him into the world. In ascending to the Father, He raises earth to heaven with Him!

Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus told His followers to remain in Jerusalem because in a few days they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:1-12 and Luke 24:13-53). Christ ascends to heaven and sends the Holy Spirit to the world. The Spirit comes to reconcile and reunite the world with God. Christ’s Body is in heaven and His Spirit is here on earth. Ascension is also a sign of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

The Symbol of Faith – the Nicene Creed – which summarizes the important doctrines and teachings of the Church, contains these words: “And ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father.” The importance and meaning of this feast is that Jesus glorified our fallen and sinful humanity when He returned to the Father. In Jesus, Who is perfect God and perfect man, man is reunited with God. At His birth, Jesus took on our human nature. Through His Ascension He deified this human nature by taking His Body to heaven and giving it a place of honour at the right hand of the Father. With Christ, man’s nature also ascends. Through Christ, man becomes a “partaker of divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). When Christ became man, He took up human nature and we share our human nature with Him.

It is through Christ, Who is perfect God and perfect man, that we “partake of divine nature.” When we say that Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father, we mean that man has been restored to communion with God because Christ gives His humanity – which He shares with us – a permanent place of honour in heaven. Christ honours us by putting us close to the Father.

We celebrate the Ascension with the same great joy the Apostles had when they were promised that the Holy Spirit would come to bear witness to the presence of Christ in the Church. Ascension day is joyful, not only because Christ is glorified, but also because we are glorified with Him. We are joyful because He goes to “prepare a place” for us and because He is forever present before the Father to intercede for us.

This article is reprinted with some minor editing from Ascension and Pentecost, Commission on Religious Education, Romanian Orthodox Episcopate, 1975, pp. 10-11.

~ Troparion (Tone 4) ~
You ascended in glory, O Christ our God, making the Disciples joyful with the promise of the Holy Spirit. And this blessing convinced them that You are the Son of God, the Saviour of the World!


SOURCE: Theologic.com
http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/feasts/ascen.htm

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St Vasilios Greek Orthodox Church by Stvasiliosbrunswick - 1w ago

John 7:37-52, 8:12

“Save and sanctify all who know You as God”

I will try to say a few words to analyse this sublime line taken from the hymn for this great day of Pentecost.

In Cyprus, the suffering island, where Greek Orthodox identity is more purely, fully and faithfully upheld, they call this day ‘the day of the flood’. Which means that the heavens and God Himself flooded the world – not with threatening waters, as when the world was destroyed in the time of Noah. Instead, He has flooded the world with endless gifts, which the life-giving death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, has opened up for all of us on earth.

That is why this is a great and unrepeatable day. Within it, the whole mystery of the divine Economy reaches its pinnacle. God became flesh for this day. Christ was sacrificed for us to reach this day, to reconcile us with God the Father, to wash us of our sins.

And who among us does not have sins? Not only the original sin! This is the least of our concerns today, unfortunately. It was a great sin, but we are washed of it in our Baptism. Each of us has their own sins: sins of the day and sins of the night, our immeasurable sins. I with mine, and you with yours.

However, we are cleansed of these sins by the death of the God-Man, the Theanthropos. It is the precious and holy Blood of the Lord which cleanses us of our sins, and washes us in the font of regeneration. It offers rebirth.

And after all this, the springs of the Holy Spirit gush forth today.

Following the Ascension, God sends the Holy Spirit to guide us unto all truth, and only in so doing is the knowledge of God made complete. We worship God the Father; we have come to know God the Son as a man; today we shall meet the Holy Spirit poured out, proceeding, being distributed but not divided, in the form of tongues of fire.

After all was finished, we can say that we have now come to the knowledge of the true God. We no longer believe in idols. We no longer believe in ourselves. We believe in God. Not an imaginary god, but God in Trinity. We are, then, “those who know God”. We have come to the awareness of truth. We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit. Precisely what we chant at every Liturgy!

However, more is needed. When we know God, and when we confess the true God while knowing the truth, we still need the forgiveness, pardon, benevolence and mercy that come from above. This is why we chant “Save and sanctify all who know You as God”. It is not enough for us to be saved. It is not enough for Him to take us from the left where the goats are, and deliver us to the right where the sheep are. It is not enough for Him to make us righteous after we were sinners.

It is not enough for Him to turn us, out of children of wrath, into children of light and obedience and adoption and love. Justification is not enough for us. We want sanctification. This is why the cry of the Church reaches sky-high; we heard it in the hymn we chanted this morning: “Save and sanctify all who know You as God”. Not just a few people, or even many people – but all!

This is the prayer of the Church. This is the wish of the Church today. This is the supplication of the Church today. This is the proclamation of the Church today. That no one is condemned forever to death and decay.

Because to those who were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, light has shone in Christ. Now there is light, life, salvation and sanctification. But if even one person remains outside the kingdom of God, we will have sorrow. If only one loses salvation, humanity will mourn.

Because He created all people out of nothing; all creation is His. For this reason, the flood of the Holy Spirit today will cleanse, enlighten, save and sanctify.

Let us honour this great day with repentance, with edification, with doxology towards the Trinitarian God.

Amen.

† Archbishop Stylianos of Australia, Writings & Homilies of Archbishop Stylianos

PENTECOST John 7:37-52, 8:12
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We’ve all no doubt heard endless chatter about how our world has become busy and noisy with nary a minute of silence to be found. No need to search far to find someone or some study telling us that we should turn down our iPhones, watch fewer channels on cable and try to escape to nature to distress ourselves. It all sounds good. After all, things can get pretty hectic even for the most monkish amongst us.

Well, religion can be a lot like that too. What with podcasts, websites, newsletters, sermons (yes, you might as well include this article), we seem to have become inundated with, dare I say, too much of a good thing. Not a day goes by without some church dispute hotly debated on a blog or some “expert” dispensing insight on how we should live our life. Really, it’s all become just too much. Sure, we rush from website to podcast trying to absorb as much as possible, but we never have any time to actually live it all out. With all the resources at our disposal, you would think that our faith in God would grow by leaps and bounds. But I am more convinced than ever that the opposite is true. I think we have to admit that all this wisdom and knowledge has not lead us to “progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly” (Philippians 3:10 AMP). In our hurried quest for knowledge we’ve left no time to taste that the Lord is good.

Enough!

God created us for His glory. St Paul says that all things were created through Jesus and for Him (Colossians 1:16). So if we’re going to start savoring Christ in order to become more and more like Him, we need to stop filling every moment with something, even if that something is religious. In Psalm 46 we read: “Cease striving and know that I am God” (v.10). The key word in this short but powerful line is the command to “cease.” It is translated alternatively as: Stop! Calm down! Be still!

We need more than just moments of quiet. We need whole periods of time when we aren’t searching to debate church issues or solve ethical dilemmas. We need silence from striving to learn how to be better Christians. In short, we need hesychia—to keep stillness. St Gregory the Theologian wrote, “it is necessary to be still in order to have clear conversation with God and gradually bring the mind back from its wanderings.” If everything we do is supposed to bring us closer to God and make us more like Him, then striving after a quiet mind, St Gregory says, is the first step towards our sanctification.

Stillness as Communion
St Basil the Great said that it is in silence that we return to our true selves by slowly moving towards God. It is in these periods of quiet solitude that the essence of who we are and the mystery of our relationship with God is truly felt. After all, is this not the same call that Jesus heard time and time again as he retreated to the deserts of Judea, to be still and to be with God?

The early Christians also felt this desire for a place of quiet – even stillness from the busyness of church life, to find communion with God, true communion. Because as St John of the Ladder wrote it is in stillness that we worship God.

Even in this age where knowledge can be had and discarded so easily, God still listens to us in silence. It is in silence that we get to know who God is and it is also where we discover who we are. When we “go away by ourselves to a quiet place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31 NLT) in the stillness of God, that is when God speaks to us the loudest.

A Gentle and Quiet Whisper
So, how can silence and stillness do so much? It’s hard to say. You can chalk it up as one of the mysteries of godliness. But there is a wonderful story in the Old Testament about the prophet Elijah that perhaps explains it best.

Elijah was one of the greatest prophets of God. He was strong, faithful, and determined to do God’s bidding with a people who lost their way more often than not. In one compelling instance, Elijah was called upon by God to defeat the false prophets of a phony god by the name of Baal. Elijah did just that. But as a result, his life was soon threatened and running for his life, he escaped to the desert. Exhausted and despairing, Elijah asked God to take his life! He bemoaned how the people of Israel had turned away from God, destroyed the places of worship, murdered the true prophets and now were out to get him as well. Then, in Elijah’s moment of silence and solitude, it all made sense: “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by. A hurricane ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there” (1 Kings 19:11-14 MSG).

God didn’t speak to Elijah in the thunderous noise of an earthquake or fire but rather in the quiet of a gentle whisper. It is in these quiet moments, kneeling in silence, that we hear God. And it is also in those repeated moments, with our ear constantly to God that we become able to, as St John of the Ladder said, “live outwardly with men but inwardly with God.”

I know we tend to like a different way of doing things—more engaging and provoking—perhaps prodding others to move towards God. But even Jesus gave us a very different example. Remember, how He alone slept (on a pillow no less!) in the boat with the disciples during a violent storm? It was Christ’s stillness that calmed the waters (Mark 4:35-41). When we learn to also be still and silent, face to face with God, then I believe we too will be calm in the presence of the demands and expectations of this hurried life; we too will project our own inner stillness to a confused and noisy world.

John Kapsalis is a graduate of Holy Cross Seminary.

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John 9:1-38

The manner in which Christ healed the blind man was very strange, and caused much questioning among those who witnessed the event. I do not intend to concentrate on the miracle as such, but rather on one detail which is of symbolic significance for anyone who has learnt to look beyond the merely apparent.

For the one who has learnt to think, to contemplate, to penetrate the signifiers and reach the signified. What does the reading mean when it states: “He made mud and spread it on my eyes”? This symbolic gesture of Christ is intended to show us that salvation is in our midst, and that healing is by our side. The earth which we tread upon and exploit is sacred ground.

And when man takes it into his hands with a pleasing and grateful spirit, this earth not only produces all kind of fruit (how many colours, aromas and tastes!), but has the capacity of moving us to the point of realizing that God is in and on the soil. Since God created the world and gave it to humankind to enjoy. He placed man and woman in paradise (see Gen. 2:8), which means in the midst of happiness. And this humble ground which we do not value, respect or honour sometimes, and which has so many natural powers, surprises us with its nakedness and the sheer variety of its products. When we are faithful to the earth, it is our body, and our body is the earth. Sooner or later, they are identified with each other once again; my body and yours will return to the body of the earth from where they came, and they will glorify God in silence – not in rebellion, as when we are alive. So, in this world, within us and around us, is salvation. Do not expect supernatural actions of God on a daily basis: for the heavens to open up and for angels to come down. Do not wait for a message to come on the clouds. Do not wait for the invisible God to speak to you in a thunderbolt.

God gave all creation for the purpose of thanksgiving and transfiguration. He placed the human person at the centre of the world, between earth and heaven, between visible and invisible. He established the human person not as an abuser of the gift, but as priest and celebrant and beholder of the divine. To take creation in his hands and offer it as we offer the bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ.

The blind man was a tragic figure because, as we chanted in the relevant hymn of the Church: “I could not see the sun shining, nor even could I see the image of Him who made me.” The reality is that the blind man is less tragic and unfortunate than us who think we can see. We who have our health, our sight, with everything around us observable like an open book, in fact remain blind. Our eyes function, but we do not use them in a manner that is worthy of God. We have ears, but do we listen to His word? We have hands, but have we performed His will? We have legs, but have we brought His Gospel to those who have yet to know it? We have the sense of smell, but do we perceive that from all created things a fragrance rises, to the glory of God?

And in spite of this, only man pollutes the earth and creates ecological problems. Which other creature of God, which animal – even the wildest – has created an ecological problem in the world? Neither the lion, nor the ravens have managed to bring to extinction any species created by God in the Six Days of Creation. Man is close to extinguishing so many species of both flora and fauna. Man is in danger of extinguishing the human race itself.

You may ask: How can you call us all blind? It is not I who say this. Everyday experience tells us that we are all blind. I will only remind you of the definition of the creative and sensitive person, i.e. of the poet, given by Yannis Ritsos, one of the greatest poets of modern Greece. Ritsos said: “The poet is one who has overcome blindness”. Why did he say this? Because the poets manage to see in the same mundane things which we all see around us, and handle and use on a daily basis, an eternal dimension: the voice of God, as well as His and our fellow human being’s ‘nobility’. They see the spirit taking tangible form, ‘solidified’ in specific objects.

They see beyond the visible, and hear beyond the audible. Let us pray that God will enable us to see within ourselves the spiritual blindness, the inner blindness which affects the whole person, and that our eyes will be open to see further and deeper into the daily reality of life.

† Archbishop Stylianos of Australia Writings & Homilies of Archbishop Stylianos

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The Lord Jesus passed forty days on earth after His Resurrection from the dead, appearing continually in various places to His disciples, with whom He also spoke, ate, and drank, thereby further demonstrating His Resurrection. On this Thursday, the fortieth day after Pascha, He appeared again in Jerusalem. After He had first spoken to the disciples about many things, He gave them His last commandment, that is, that they go forth and proclaim His Name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. But He also commanded them that for the present, they were not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait there together until they receive power from on high, when the Holy Spirit would come upon them.

Saying these things, He led them to the Mount of Olives, and raising His hands, He blessed them; and saying again the words of the Father’s blessing, He was parted from them and taken up. Immediately a cloud of light, a proof of His majesty, received Him. Sitting thereon as though on a royal chariot, He was taken up into Heaven, and after a short time was concealed from the sight of the disciples, who remained where they were with their eyes fixed on Him. At this point, two Angels in the form of men in white raiment appeared to them and said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, Who is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven” (Acts 1:11). These words, in a complete and concise manner, declare what is taught in the Symbol of Faith concerning the Son and Word of God.

Therefore, having so fulfilled all His dispensation for us, our Lord Jesus Christ ascended in glory into Heaven, and sat at the right hand of God the Father. As for His sacred disciples, they returned from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem, rejoicing because Christ had promised to send them the Holy Spirit.

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As we continue to celebrate the new life that Jesus Christ’s resurrection has brought to the world, we are reminded today that His mercy and blessing extend to all, even the most unlikely people, like the Samaritans and those who are despised and rejected by respectable society.

The Jews hated the Samaritans as religious and ethnic half-breeds because they had mixed the ethnic heritage and the religion of Israel with that of other peoples. No self-respecting Jew would have anything to do with a Samaritan, much less ask one for a drink of water. But Jesus Christ did, and a Samaritan woman came to recognize Him as the Messiah, to believe in Him, and to lead many other Samaritans to the faith. She ultimately becomes Saint Photini, an evangelist and martyr with the title “equal to the apostles.”

All the more remarkable is the fact that she was not only a Samaritan, but she was a woman. Jewish men simply did not strike up conversations with women in public. Women had low status in that time and place and were not expected to have deep theological conversations with rabbis. But this Messiah operated differently. He saw in her one made in the image and likeness of God who, like every one of us, is called to a life of holiness, regardless of where we stand in worldly hierarchies.

The Samaritan woman also seemed an unlikely candidate for holiness because of her history with men. She had been married five times and was then living with a man outside of marriage. Some have suggested that she went to the well at noon, an unusual time to do so, in order to avoid encountering the other women of her village due to her bad reputation. The Lord knew about her history, but did not condemn, judge, or ignore her as a result. Perhaps because she appreciated His respect and genuine concern, she acknowledged to Him the truth about her life and their conversation continued. Quite possibly, she had never encountered a man who had treated her in this way before as a beloved child of God.

And very soon, she told the men of her village that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Can you imagine how surprised they probably were to hear this woman speaking to them of God, for they surely were not used to thinking of her as an especially religious person? Think of how brave Photini was, how radically her life was changed through her encounter with Jesus Christ.

We will make a mistake this Pascha if we think that the good news of Christ’s resurrection is only for people who live what we consider to be admirable lives, those who measure up to our standards, or who are members of groups that we admire. We must not exclude anyone from the possibility of embracing the new life brought into the world by the empty tomb, even if they presently order their lives in less than ideal ways—as is true of us all in some respects. Jesus Christ Himself brought the blessing of His kingdom to a Samaritan woman with an immoral lifestyle. She was changed by His mercy and changed her ways. Who knows how many came to share in His eternal life through her witness and ministry?

We learn from the story of St. Photini that we must not write off anyone as a hopeless case. We must not isolate ourselves from those whose lives seem especially broken and off course—or even perverse and godless. If we respond with hatred, judgment, or stony silence to those we deem unworthy, we turn away from Christ’s ministry of bringing new life to the whole world. For which of us has the right to cast the first stone at a sinner? Our Saviour never condoned sin of any kind and neither should we; but He came not to condemn, but to save. He came to bring sinners to repentance, to heal the sick, to give sight to the blind. He died and rose again for the salvation of all created in His image and likeness, of the entire world. He has made great saints of murderers, adulterers, and evildoers of every kind who have called on His mercy and changed their lives.

When we have the opportunity to show compassion or friendship or encouragement to someone whose life is off course and who seems very far from following Jesus Christ, we should do so. Whenever anyone who bears the image of God is treated as less than human, we should show them the love of Christ. When we have the chance to draw into our church community someone whose life has been noticeably less than perfect, we should not hesitate. Yes, we should treat them as our Lord treated the Samaritan woman who became a great saint. To do anything less is to place our own limits on the power of the Risen Lord to bring salvation to the world—and it is to refuse to follow in the way of the One who conquered death.

St. Photini is also a powerful example for each of us as we struggle with our own sins, passions, bad habits, and weaknesses. Sometimes the burden of our sinfulness is great and we are tempted to despair of ever finding peace and healing in our lives. The standards of Christ are so high and we are so low. We can become obsessed with our unworthiness; and if we are not careful, this way of thinking can lead us away from the Church, for the guilt and frustration of spiritual failure are hard to bear, and we often would simply rather not think about it.

St. Photini was no stranger to such failures, but she learned to keep her eyes on the prize of the new life in Christ. Perhaps her experiences had taught her humility. She knew she was a sinner and must have been thrilled finally to be on a path that would take her in a different direction. We do not know the details, but she surely faced struggles, temptations, and reminders of the mess that she had made of her life. Some of those difficulties probably occurred in her own thoughts. Some people probably continued to view her in a judgmental light, for there are always those who appoint themselves as self-righteous judges of their neighbours and like to look down on them.

Despite these obstacles, the Samaritan woman with a checkered past became a glorious saint, an evangelist equal to the apostles and ultimately a martyr. If she could pass over from sin to righteousness, from death to life, in Christ Jesus, then we can, too. The great blessing of Pascha comes to us all, and we have countless opportunities in our families, our marriages, our parish, our friendships, our workplace, our use of time, money, and energy, in all our thoughts, words, and deeds, to participate more fully in the Lord’s victory over sin and death.

No matter what we have done in the past, no matter our present weaknesses and challenges, no matter what anyone thinks or says about us, we must remember that the Son of God has conquered death in order to bring us into the eternal life of the Holy Trinity, to make us partakers of the divine nature. Like the Samaritan woman, we must acknowledge our corruption and turn to Christ with faith, love, and hope for a new life, and then continue on the journey of discipleship, even when we stumble or are tempted to give up.

Just as we ask for the Lord’s mercy on our sins, we must extend the same mercy to others. The Saviour spoke the truth with love and respect for the Samaritan woman, but he did not condemn or judge her. And He has surely not appointed any of us to judge others either.

St. Photini did not earn the new life given her by Christ, and Pascha is not a reward given to us for our good behavior. During this season of Pascha, we know that life eternal has sprung from an empty tomb purely as the result of our Lord’s love and mercy. The good news of Pascha extends to the Samaritan women of our day and even to us. So let us embrace our Risen Lord and become participants in His life. He raised up St. Photini and brought her from darkness into light; and He will do the same for us when we respond with faith and repentance: that is the gloriously good news of this season of resurrection. Let us embrace Him by living a holy life that draws others into the new day of the Heavenly Kingdom, even as did St. Photini the Great Martyr and Equal to the Apostles.

Fr. Philip LeMasters


The original name of the Samaritan woman is not known, but the church knows her as Photini, “Equal to the Apostles”. She was baptized after the resurrection, and in a continuation of her zealous apostolic ministry begun on the day she met the Lord, preached in many areas, including Carthage and Smyrna in Asia Minor, where she was martyred. She had five daughters and two sons, all of whom became martyrs. She is commemorated February 28th, and, of course, on the fifth Sunday of Pascha.

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