Raising Children in the Orthodox Faith
First and foremost children are the greatest blessing in life for any married couple and indeed are a gift from God. So the greatest gift parents can pass onto their children is to lay the foundations for them to know and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. To do this, parents need to live and follow our faith, after all Orthodoxy is a way of life.
From the outset, there is prayer for the mother giving birth and for the new born child’s spiritual life and wellbeing. And it is good to get the child involved, by having an Orthodox environment at home with an icon in the child’s room, the icon of the Theotokos is always one loved by children, seeing the Mother holding her baby Jesus. Another icon could be the icon of the saint or event depicting the child’s intended name.
Forty days after birth, the parents then take their child to Church, where the Priest will bless the child with prayer and the child’s first entrance into the Church. Once the child is old enough (usually in the 1st year), the child is Baptised, which formally makes the child a member of Holy Orthodox Church. At the Baptism, the Priest will finish by anointing the child with the Sacrament of Chrismation, which is the Seal of the Holy Spirit. Chrismation gives the child certain unique gifts of the Holy Spirit, which the child will have forever.
To Baptise the child, parents need to select a Godparent. The Godparent plays an important role in the child’s life as well, being responsible for the spiritual upbringing of the child. Therefore it is important to choose a Godparent who is ‘close’ to the Church. Indeed to be a Godparent in the Orthodox Church, one needs to be a baptised Orthodox Christian in the first place.
From the moment a child breathes, the child is with its mother and from thereon in the child’s formative years, the parents are the teachers and ‘role models’. So it is important for all parents to live the faith in front of their children so that they can set the example for them to follow.
Parents should also begin teaching the faith to their children from an early age and a good way to start is with the Birth of the baby Jesus – the Christmas Story. And so from the very beginning, the child understands the ‘true meaning’ of Christmas and that Christmas is not just about getting toys. Then there is the Bible and there are good children’s versions of Bible. Children love the stories of some of the heroes, such as Samson, David and Goliath. These make great bedtime story books and by reading these stories to the children, they not only learn about Holy Scriptures, but they also learn to love books and reading.
Once children are about 5 years old, they can join a Sunday School at one of the Orthodox Churches, where they will learn about their faith and the Church with other little children.
Because our Greek Orthodox Church has a strong Greek cultural context, it is wise to expose our children to the culture and the language. In many of the Capital cities, there are Australian Greek Orthodox Schools where children can learn the normal educational curriculum and at the same time have lessons in Orthodoxy and the Greek language. Alternatively, the child can enrol in an afternoon Greek School. In both these scenarios, the child will get to meet other young Greek Orthodox children.
Finally, parents need to have faith and strong Christian practices themselves. Parents are obliged to always pray for their children and with their children. Parent must worship with their children both at home and by attending church services. Parents and their children will always benefit if they provide their children with regular opportunities to choose for themselves to exercise their love of God and fellow man, that is, to imitate Christ.
Prof. Angelo Karantonis
Graduate of St. Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College
Primacy and Collegiality
Much is happening in the Orthodox world today that is raising serious questions in the Church on the nature and function of primacy and collegiality. No longer is this only a thorny question for Roman Catholic – Orthodox relations but now unfortunately is putting strain on intra – Orthodox relations as well. Put very simply, some would claim that being first amongst the Orthodox Churches, gives the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who is “first amongst equals” (primus inter pares) the nomo-canonical right to interfere in the affairs of other local Orthodox Churches whilst others vehemently oppose such an imposition regarding it as ecclesiologically unsound. From this concrete problem we can see that the question of primacy and collegiality is not a purely abstract one nor is it the most important question on the ecumenical scene in general but also more importantly between Orthodox Churches themselves. In attempting to critically reflect on this issue we need to raise some fundamental questions as to the nature of the Church.
Church as an image or icon of the Holy Trinity
Since we assert that the Church is “the Church of God” its quintessential nature must fundamentally reflect God after whose image it is. Orthodox theology would claim that the Church is an image or icon of the Holy Trinity. Put quite simply the Church must reflect or express wholly the immutable truth of God. The very being of God is a communion of three hypostases relating to one another in love and inter-penetrating one another. God has revealed Himself as three Persons, that is, three absolutely unique and distinct modes of existence yet united, and each possessing the fullness of the Divinity. These three unique and distinct Persons of the Holy Trinity continually embrace one another in an interpenetrating communion of love (ajllhlopericwvrhsi”). Each of the Persons is completely open to the other, totally transparent and receptive. This transparency and receptivity is expressed by the notion of perichoresis (pericwvrhsi”). Archbishop Stylianos beautifully captured the essence of this notion of perichoresis when he characterised it as “an ineffable and captivating reciprocal embrace of infinite love.” (1) The three Persons of the Holy Trinity dwell in one another through a movement of reciprocating love yet without losing their distinctive personal attributes.
The ‘one’ and the ‘many’
Now, having noted earlier that the Church must express this reality, we would have to point out, from the above that just as God is simultaneously ‘one’ and ‘many’ (i.e. Trinitarian yet one God) where the ‘many’ is constitutive of the ‘one’ since God is not firstly one ‘substance’ and only then three Persons, so too the Church which is a reflection of God, cannot in any way give priority to the Church universal at the expense of upholding the truth of its fullness founded in its concrete, local manifestations headed by the local bishop. Any tendency, both in the West and unfortunately now also in the East which tries to reverse this traditionally Biblical and Patristic vision of the Church can only lead to deviations of the Truth entrusted to the Church as a whole by Christ. According to this vision, the Church’s integrity or “catholicity” (i.e. fullness) refer unambiguously to both the local and universal Church. We could go so far as to say that just as Christ (the term Christ literally means the Annointed One by the Spirit) is inconceivable without the Spirit, so too the universal Church is unthinkable without the integrity of the local Church. The very being of the Church understood as communion highlights the interdependence and not independence of local Churches to one another.
We can see from the above brief analysis that it is the principle of simultaneity or of communion that must be upheld at all times with the life of the Church. This becomes extremely important when examining the ministry of the bishop for two reasons. Firstly, this means that no bishop can meddle in the affairs of another bishop’s eparchy since this would destroy the integrity or catholicity of the local Church and therefore wrongly reduce the idea of the Church’s catholicity to a primarily ‘universal’ meaning of which the Church is not. And without the synodal structure the Church runs the danger of ecclesial universalism. While it is true that it only through the primus that the many local Churches can speak with one voice, nevertheless the primus cannot be self defined but only exercising his authority within a truly communal context.
Secondly, while it is true that a bishop is ordained for a particular diocese and in this way safeguards the integrity and identity of the local Church, he is nevertheless a bishop of the universal Church and therefore not only must he have a voice in the synod but is obliged to do so, so that his people may be represented. It would have been inconceivable in the Church to deprive a bishop of his rights to have an equal voice in a regional or universal synod, something of which, unfortunately today, for example, bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate are deprived. A proper functioning of the synodal system in the Church is a sine qua non for the integrity and identity of the Church since it is this structure that protects and guarantees the catholicity of each local Church.
Each local Church is an organic and catholic unity of life, a “catholic” body which has its bishop “in the type and place of Christ” and therefore must be given a voice. Clearly the inclusion of the experience of one local Church cannot be included in a synodal representation at the exclusion of another. For it is not possible for any bishop to speak on behalf of the experience of another bishop of whose body he is not and to which he does not hold the “place” of Christ. When any bishop is deprived of being an active participant in a synod then we could go so far as to say that the foundational presuppositions for the proper functioning of a synod are quashed, since in that the synod is not truly representative of all its members.
From the above we would also have to conclude that no council has the canonical authority to interfere in the internal affairs of any Episcopal diocese since any problems encountered can only be resolved within a conciliar context in which all bishops are members. From this we see that synods cannot act above the local Churches but only through them in communion since each bishop must be a member. If this were altered then the catholicity of each local Church would be in danger of being destroyed by an authority existing over and above the local Church; yet we have seen that primacy can only be understood in terms of simultaneity and communion. From all the above, we see that each local Church made up of its bishop and all the laity need to witness this truth strongly so that their integrity may not be put into question.
Dr Philip Kariatlis
Academic Director and Senior Lecturer in Theology,
St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College
1 Sto Periqwvrio tou’ Dialovgou, Athens: Domos, 1991, p.116
Pilgrimage to Symi: Island of an Archangel
Around 5.30 p.m., Sunday May 13
The catamaran approaches the small island of Symi. The little port looks enchanting as the late afternoon sun illuminates the tiers of ochre and pastel-coloured houses – interspersed with the domes and belltowers of churches – climbing up the mountainous hill encircling the waterfront. After our little drama in obtaining a taxi at Patmos a week ago, we had made diligent enquiries. “Oh no, you will have no trouble at Symi.” Of course we should have known it, not a single taxi turns out to meet the catamaran.
We are told to walk round to the taxi stand on the far extremity of the waterfront. The local ladies waiting at the stand have resigned looks on their faces. We join them and contemplate the view. Time passes. It is getting more and more like Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot. We must do something. The family-run hotel a Symiot friend had booked for us back in Sydney is not in the lower town of Yialos but in the upper town of Chorio. We are close to the Kali Strata, the quaint stepped “street” that climbs the hill to Chorio. The guidebook reckons there are 357 steps.
Our hotel seems to be on a level about three-quarters of the way up. But my wife has a serious problem walking and that’s more steps than I would cheerfully tackle. We are going to need a car so should we hire one now? We appeal for help to a very nice young lady – come to think of it, all Dodecanese young ladies are very nice – in a nearby tourist shop.
“It’s no good waiting for a taxi, the drivers will have gone home for their evening meal. It’s Sunday. In any case, the taxis only come out when there are tourists around.” But we are tourists! Never mind. She makes a telephone call and in a few minutes a taxi comes and rescues us. We feel guilty about the ladies. We appeal to the taxi driver to go back for them. It is a very long route round by car. As we enter the labyrinth of little streets of the old town we thank God that we didn’t hire a car. The streets are incredibly narrow and it would have been a nightmare trying to locate the hotel. But at last we are in our hotel room and open the door onto the veranda. The view down the hillside to the harbour is fantastic.
8.30ish, Monday Morning May 14
We go down to breakfast. An elderly guest is already hard at work on his boiled egg and yoghurt and honey. He tells us that he always takes his annual holiday in the Dodecanese. Symi, he assures us, is its jewel. Heritage listed, unlike Kos and Rhodes the island hasn’t been disfigured by tourist development and retains a charming architectural homogeneity. The two or three story houses are mainly nineteenth century and combine an imported classical style with local detail. They reflect the fact that Symi had in the past grown wealthy on shipbuilding and sponge diving.
With depletion of the forests, modern shipbuilding, and exhaustion of the sponges, Symi fell on very hard times in the twentieth century and the population was decimated by immigration, while houses were left derelict. During the last couple of decades, however, Symi has been reborn in the wake of a Dodecanese tourist bonanza, and many Symiots (no, not Symians), including younger people born overseas, have returned. Today most of the derelict houses have been restored.
After breakfast, we set off to catch Symi’s bus to take us down to Yialos. As we walk, our attention is caught by the melodic sound of tinkling bells, like the bells of the goats above our hotel on Patmos. We turn the corner and there is the troupe of donkeys that bring supplies up to Chorio. Perhaps we could hire a couple of donkeys instead of a car, they would be easier to park. Well, perhaps not. A car it is.
Now mobile, we set out to traverse the island. What has brought us to Symi is not primarily the charms of Symi town, but the monastery of Panormitis on the far extremity of the island. I am anxious to visit the monastery because, ever since its foundation in 1969, the Archangel Michael (Taxiarchis Michael) at Crow’s Nest in Sydney has been my parish church. Many Symiots settled on Sydney’s North Shore, so when the time came to create a parish and build a church the local Greek community decided that the church should be dedicated to the Archangel Michael of Panormitis. Although there are other major centres of devotion to the Archangel, such as Mantamados on Lesbos, Panormitis draws pilgrims from across Greece and beyond.
Belief in angels is all but universal and there are many references to them in the Bible. Their existence is a dogma of the Church, and we affirm that belief every time we recite in the Creed, “I believe in … all things visible and invisible”, since “invisible” denotes the angels. But exactly what are angels? The Church declares angels to be “bodiless powers”. They are, however, created. The Western tradition regards them as pure spiritual intelligences. The East, while leaving their exact nature open, has tended to see them as non-corporeal but nevertheless physical beings. Thus, some Fathers speculated that they might be composed of a subtle fiery or ethereal substance.
On the rare occasions angels are actually seen this is almost certainly effected by internal interaction with the brain rather than by sensory input. The Archangel Raphael says to Tobius and his father that he only seemed to eat and drink before them, but in reality they “were seeing a vision” (see Tobit 12:19). Amongst the angels, Michael the Archangel occupies a special position. The Archangels play a crucial role as the captains of the heavenly host, but it is Michael who is their leader.
There are four Archangels mentioned by name in Scripture: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel. Tobit 12:15 gives the number of Archangels as seven. Names for the remaining three – Salaphiel, Jegudiel and Barachiel – are supplied from extra-biblical sources. We learn from the Old Testament that Michael was the guardian of the Jewish nation. With the Incarnation, he becomes the guardian of the Church. The Archangel is also the principal psychopomp who leads the souls of the dead to God. Iconographically, he is often depicted weighing souls at the Judgement.
The principal feast of the Archangel is that of the ‘Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the other Bodiless Powers’ on November 8. In the West, the feast is traditionally known (in English) as Michaelmas and is celebrated on September 29. Devotion to the Archangel is certainly early, but there is definite evidence of a major cultus (= devotion – don’t confuse “cultus” with “cults”!) from the fourth century on. Possibly, the cultus arose in the first century at Chonai in Phrygia.
Revelation/Apocalypse 12:7-9 tells of the mighty war in heaven at which Michael and his angels defeated the dragon/Satan and cast him and his angels down to earth. This provides a reason why so many sites associated with Michael in both East and West are on mountains, as is the case with Chonai, or on the tops of hills. These include such spectacular Western sites as Monte Gargano in Italy, Mont-Saint-Michel in France and St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall.
But in the East the Archangel is also associated, again as at Chonai, with healing springs, and with the protection of sailors. This latter aspect of the cultus, which is particularly relevant to Panormitis, probably originated around Byzantium. But it is time to get back to our trip to the monastery.
Around 10 a.m.
An excellent newly-constructed road takes us along the mountainous spine of the island. Our first glimpse of Panormitis from the heights is spectacular. A more beautiful site would be difficult to imagine. The monastery lies strung out along the shore of an oval-shaped bay with a single narrow entrance. The narrowness of the entrance makes all the more remarkable the repeated miraculous washing up on the shore of messages placed in bottles (many preserved in the monastery) cast into the sea by sailors around the world
We drive down. The entrance to the monastery is through an arch under a spectacular Baroque-cum-Rococo bell-tower, built between 1905 and 1911. The monastery has extensive wings with cells to accommodate the hoards of pilgrims that come for the panigyris on November 8 and other major feasts, but the monastic enclosure proper is quite compact. The courtyard, with the Katholikon at its centre, is truly delightful.
Floors with black and white pebble designs are very much a feature of the Dodecanese Islands, but the pavement of this courtyard is outstanding. The design in front of the Katholikon takes the form of a pattern of waves, which, if seen from the right angle, becomes three-dimensional. I can see in my mind’s eye bottles drifting in on the waves through the Katholikon door to fetch up at the foot of the icon of the Archangel so that he can attend to any requests they contain. Legend has it that the origins of the monastery lie in the miraculous discovery of an icon of the Archangel. The existence of reused Antique columns and capitals point to an early Byzantine church or even earlier pagan temple, but little seems to be known for certain about the monastery prior to its rebuilding between 1777 and 1783.
The Katholikon is bright with notable restored iconography dating from the late eighteenth century. Dozens of hanging oil lamps, the offerings of Symiots from around the world, adorn the space. The iconostasis, as intricately carved as any I have seen, also dates to the late eighteenth century. But it is the large miracle-working icon of the Archangel that seems to fill the Katholikon with its presence. This is one icon that proves impossible to photograph; the camera seemingly overwhelmed by the contrast between the dazzling gilded cover and the underlying paint. Although the eye can handle what the camera cannot, there is really no way through which I can convey the force of the pure energy that emanates from this icon, which is at once majestic and awesome, and gentle and compassionate.
It is indeed an icon through which miracles are to be anticipated. One of the most remarkable is that the restoration of sight of a six year old blind boy from Leros on the feast of the Archangel, November 8, 1960. A young Symiot, while sleeping after attending the Vigil, had a dream in which the Archangel instructed him to go into the church where he would find a blind child. He was to take him into his arms and lift him up to the level of the Archangel’s face on the icon. He did so and the boy’s sight was miraculously restored.
The monastery boasts two small museums, one ecclesiastical, the other of folk art. Do we go round the museums now or after we have rustled up a spot of lunch? Lunch wins. Fatal mistake. By the time we have finished our picnic the monastery has sunk into the peaceful oblivion of the siesta. We have already resolved to return for Vespers tomorrow; perhaps the museums will be open then (they weren’t).
Mid-Afternoon, Tuesday May 15
Much of our morning has been spent finalising complicated travel arrangements as tomorrow evening we fly from Rhodes back to London. An early lunch and the indulgence of a monastic siesta to prepare us for the rigours of tomorrow and at last we are on the road to Panormitis for Vespers. There are many very small settlements and monasteries scattered over the island, signs to which we pass on our way. In all, there are nine monastic churches dedicated to the Archangel Michael and it is these that, the Symiots maintain, secure the stability of the island.
Shortly, we are back at Panormitis, but the monastery has yet to rouse itself from the siesta. We mosey around a bit and then settle ourselves in the shade of a tree and watch activity on the waterfront. Almost time for Vespers, so we go back to the courtyard, only to discover we have been told the wrong time and have another hour to wait. Eventually, a few people come in and join us, but I am beginning to doze off.
Suddenly a hearty “Christos Anesti” in my left ear jerks me back into consciousness. A lone priest has arrived to celebrate Vespers. Unlike Patmos, there is no community of monks at Panormitis today and a lay committee runs the monastery. It is the Eve of the Apodosis of Pascha. “Apodosis” is usually translated “leave-taking” but literally means “return”. Following major feasts there is a period known as the “afterfeast”. On the final day of the afterfeast (they vary in length) most of the service for the feast day itself is repeated, hence it is called the “return” of the feast. So Vespers this evening will be very special as once again the sublime chants of Pascha will be heard.
What can I say of the service? As the philosopher Wittgenstein observed, “Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent.” But what a wondrous doxology for the last evening of our excursion. Filled with Paschal joy, we leave this beautiful, numinous place where so many pilgrims have come down the centuries to seek the aid of the Archangel or to receive his blessing.
8 a.m., Wednesday May 16, the Apodosis of Pascha
Our last breakfast. After, we chat to our friendly host and hostess who lived in Sydney for many years, still have family there and return frequently. We finish packing, return the car and wait for the catamaran. Here it comes, dead on time at the stroke of 10. But where are our tickets? They won’t let us on without them and the boat has a turn around time of just five minutes. It seems we have no option but to open our case at the top of the gangway, clothes flying everywhere. No luck. But now the gangway has been raised behind us and the catamaran is moving. Surely they won’t throw us overboard? An officer reluctantly lets us into the saloon. We collapse onto a couple of seats and continue the search. Eventually we find the tickets.
With a start like that, what awaits us at our destination? Surprisingly, everything goes like clockwork in Rhodes; but it is a different story when we get to London. By the time we get clear of Gatwick airport it is dark, pelting with rain and, yes, we can’t find our hotel. But you don’t want to hear about that.
Dr. Guy Freeland
Honorary Member of Faculty (1986-present),
Teaching Hermeneutics and Liturgical Studies,
St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College
Awake you who sleep
It is inappropriate to attempt to measure the level of another person’s faith. This would be tantamount to judging others. How are we to know what lies in the hearts of others? What could possibly allow us to feel so self-assured that we would begin? to look beyond our own weakness of faith?
It is necessary to be reminded of this boundary and to keep our own faith in check lest we begin to be pre-occupied with the faults and weaknesses of others. But what is apparent and disturbing of late is the growing number of people who appear to have no foundation in the faith and an absence of the fundamental principles of the practice of the faith. This new low level of faith is apparent to me when officiating in the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation. There are two give away signs for the lack of faith in our community as revealed in the Sacrament of Baptism. The first is that the Orthodox person who has been chosen by the family as the godfather or godmother often displays no familiarity with performing the sign of the Cross – a fundamental sign of the faith and of our salvation.
When asked to do the sign of the Cross the hand often goes to the wrong side, or all fingers are extended and there is no idea about where to start and end the sign of the Cross. Through hesitation it is obvious that the sign of the Cross is rarely practiced by this person who now presents himself or herself to take on the awesome responsibility as the spiritual guide of the infant or adult being Baptised. The kindness and patience of the Priest however gently holds the hand of the person correcting their hand to form the threesome of the thumb, index finger and second finger representing the Holy Trinity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The remaining two fingers rest on the hand to represent Christ”s two natures combined, human and divine, with the words being uttered, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
“For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness” (Hebrews 5:1-2).
The second prominent give away sign in relation to the lack of apparent faith is when the godfather or godmother is asked to read the Nicene Creed – the statement of our Orthodox faith. It is clear from their reading that many are reading the Creed as if for the first time as they appear unfamiliar with it. This indicates non-attendance at Church services by the lack of familiarity and understanding of the things that constitute the Orthodox faith. In such ignorance Christ is unknown, a relationship with God rarely contemplated, yet the Sacrament of Baptism unites us with Him.
This also indicates that whilst godparents present themselves for the Baptism of the infant, their own Baptism lies dormant. How can it be then that a person presenting themselves as a spiritual godparent can fulfil their role as the spiritual guide for the child or adult being Baptised? For they themselves are not awake, but asleep. Again we therefore must pray, “Lord have Mercy on us and them” for “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
Furthermore, it is often misunderstood even among those godparents who consider their relationship with the Church to be reasonably close that their obligation becomes a cultural obligation rather than a spiritual one. There are so many people who think that their spiritual obligation ends when they escort the infant for Holy Communion at least three times after the Baptism. But it is not the number that is important in order to acquit ourselves of our responsibility but that we develop a long lasting relationship with the child through the life of the Church, which is ongoing. There is the tendency to accept this ongoing role as more familial and cultural rather than spiritual through the sacramental life of the Church. The godparent therefore has to be acutely aware of their own responsibility to practice the faith if they themselves are to embark on the role as a godparent.
In these circumstances the Priest’s thoughts may turn to the passage from Isaiah recorded by St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, “Awake you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:14).
It is a reminder to us of what St Paul wrote in his second letter to the Thessalonians, “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).
We are spiritually awake if we live by the charge given to us at the time of our Baptism to maintain the purity of our spiritual garment throughout our life. We can do this by keeping our life in the light by faith, love and hope and practiced through the Holy Sacraments of the Church.
Rev. Emmanuel Stamatiou,
Parish Priest of The Annunciation Of Our Lady Perth, (W.A)
The use of the word ecstasy these days could hardly be associated with the Church. Ecstasy is more than likely to be associated with the designer drug, which was heavily used before heroin re-emerged on the drug scene some two years ago. We know the consequence of drug use in our community. In Perth there have been some 50 deaths this year attributed to heroin overdose among young people. This is a very high figure given our city’s population of 1.2 million. The trend is a disturbing worldwide problem. In Greece, the number of deaths due to drugs was 146 in 1994 compared with just 10 deaths in 1985. By comparison, in Germany the number of drug related deaths grew from 224 in 1985 to 1624 in 1994.
These figures however represent only a small component of drug related deaths. This is because the drug deaths category only includes illicit drugs. When you include the licit drugs of alcohol, cigarettes and prescription drugs these figures would be significantly higher. The number of deaths due to illicit drug use represents less than 3% of the total number of drug caused deaths. When you consider the harm associated with drug use such is caused by accidents, injuries, the toxic effects on the body and soon, the cost to the community is very high. Studies have shown that 15-25% of all hospital admissions are related to harm associated with the excessive use of alcohol. Imagine the billions of dollars involved with this.
A drug can broadly be defined as any substance that alters the mood or state of mind of the user. The dangers associated with drug use are that it affects our senses and judgment. In this regard, drug use can have disastrous consequences in relation to the responsibility we carry to care for others and ourselves. Imagine drug use among workers utilising heavy industrial equipment or a surgeon in the operating theatre. There is an increased awareness of these problems among employers, leading to recommendations for drug testing in the workplace. A recent case reported in the media was with BHP in Port Hedland due to drug use among the workers.
The other major problem with drugs is that we can develop a physical dependence on them. This means that our self-control is severely compromised when we become dependent on substances. Nicotine in cigarettes for example is now known to be one of the most addictive of drugs. Our self- control is also severely compromised when we become intoxicated, losing our dignity and respect.
In contrast to the ugly scene of alcohol and drug abuse in our community today, the early Fathers of our Church spoke of spiritual ecstasy. St. Gregory of Sinai described this state as the “Total elevation of the soul’s powers towards the majesty of divine glory…” (Philokalia v. 4, pp 222). Ecstasy as defined by the Fathers of the Church is “the going out from oneself and from all created things towards God, under the influence of eros or intense longing. A man does not attain ecstasy by his own efforts, but is drawn out of himself by the power of God’s love. Ecstasy implies passing beyond all the conceptual thinking of the discursive reason.” (Philokalia v. 4, pp 429).
The going out from oneself can only be achieved through love; a love for God and for others. This love compels those who love to belong not to themselves but to those whom they love. It was this love that inspired St. Paul to write “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). St. Maximus the Confessor states that the highest mystical experience is ecstasy. This experience is reserved for those who have been granted the grace to be purified of the passions and be adorned with the virtues. This divine purification leads to the illumination or enlightenment of the inner self through the nous (the eye of the soul or mind).
The higher plane that people seek with drugs is a potentially destructive and evil force that darkens our mind and has the capacity to control the physical, social and physiological self. This condition separates us from God and places us on the path leading to destruction. It is no accident that alcohol and drug abuses associated with self-centredness, death, violence, disease, theft, accidents, injuries, and criminal activity. Can we say that these are not products of evil?
On the other hand the higher spiritual plane sought by the saints (the faithful) of the Church is the exact opposite of the ugliness associated with alcohol and drug abuse. For this involves us in the process of healing and the enlightenment of our soul leading to a state of ecstasy and joy. This condition unites us with God and leads us to the path of salvation. This process of healing is associated with self-denial, love, life, peace, kindness and responsibility for others and us before God. Can we say these are not divine fruits and gifts? It is natural for people to seek a higher plane. This is because man was created in God’s image and He breathed life into him (Gen. 2:7). God created us not for death but for eternity. When people lose knowledge of God, they lose the path leading to their eternity. They cease to have a personal relationship with God through Christ the Saviour, who is the “Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).
To seek a higher plane without God is impossible. This is why everything in the world holds false promise whilst everything of God fulfills all promise and hope. Therefore all things which are seen and understood without the knowledge and remembrance of God will prove themselves counterfeit. It is no wonder that people use drugs when seeking a higher plane, be it to fill some emptiness in their lives, or through ignorance, grief lack of self confidence, curiosity depression or some impulsive act.
St. Maximos the Confessor said “Evil is corruptible because corruption is the nature of evil, which does not possess any true existence whatsoever. Goodness is incorruptible because it exists eternally and never ceases to be, and watches over everything in which it dwells” (Philokalia v2, pp. 224).
Drugs confuse and threaten parents because they do not know how to protect their children against them. However, if we teach our children from an early age the Love and Word of God (that is if they are raised spiritually and not just physically in a material world), they are given the grace, blessings and protection of God. His Church is not just the place to visit on Sundays, the Church is the Body of Christ that heals and protects us. Let us understand that we are servants and friends of the “Living God” who teaches the meaning of true love. Let us not seek solutions to our daily problems and fears without Him. “I have not greater joy”, said St. John the Theologian than to hear that my children walk in truth.” (3 John:5).
Rev. Emmanuel Stamatiou,
Parish Priest of The Annunciation Of Our Lady Perth, (W.A)
“Looking to the left and to the right”
From a young age we are taught to look to the left and then to the right and then to the left again before we cross the road. This very practical traffic rule applies not only to the roads but also to the spiritual path and journey of our Christian life. The hazards of any road are not always familiar and the risks can be quite significant, especially for the unsuspecting traveller. The hazards in a Christian’s spiritual path are considerable and treacherous. Many of us have no familiarity or sense of the hazards involved on this spiritual path and what is required to safeguard ourselves from the risks that can lead to absolute disaster.
It was well known to the early fathers of the Church and those who achieved a spiritual life close to God, that Christians must be attentive and discerning of the hazards that lie to the left and to the right and by what means one can be prepared and protected against them.
The temptations of the devil come to us from the left and right spheres. To be caught from the ‘left’ incorporates what most people understand to involve sin. These influences from the ‘left’ says Father Michael (Practical Guide of Orthodoxy and Orthopraxia. Orthodox Kypseli publications Thessalonika, 1998 pp.61) “casts us directly into the so-called physical sins, such as: drunkenness, pleasure-loving, fornication, gluttony, adultery, murder and abortions, theft, anger, thievery from Churches, bestialities, evil desires, smoking, painting faces, adornments and every comfort of the flesh, fashion, money loving, card playing (gambling) and other things.”
The temptations of the devil that come to us from the right are much more subtle and far less transparent than those that occur from the left. The attacks from the right are seemingly friendly, harmless, even uplifting and affirming of Christian ways. But hiding behind these attacks is the devil who is responsible for anaesthetising and immobilising many people of their spiritual struggle thwarting their spiritual pursuit even though they may be devout Christians, monks, priests and even the hierarchy of the Church. The craft of the demons that attack from the “right” is based on the art of delusion and deception. These influences can occur through thoughts, dreams and visions designed to convince the unsuspecting that they are in receipt of direct and ‘prophetic’ messages, all the while working through self esteem as if all is “given to them from heaven.” (Orthodoxy and Orthopraxia pp. 60)
These delusions are often “accompanied” by pride, vainglory, hypocrisy, falsehood, egoism, heresy, and all the similar sins of the soul, with a purpose of leading the person to believe little by little, with the demon’s cooperation, that God has chosen them especially out of very many people as “His own instrument.” Such persons can often take on a cause to undermine and to “put down the Orthodox Church, together with the priesthood, which was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ and which has Apostolic succession.” (pp. 59-60)
This influence from the right can go further so that people can even believe they have the power of healing and to perform miracles.
The means by which one can protect themselves from the crafty influence of the devil is through an earthly spiritual Father; the priest in other words. But it appears this sure antidote to fight the devil is much forgotten by Orthodox Christians today, a most powerful form of attack from the right today. The priest to many is regarded as no more than a social acquaintance, at best an important dignitary, a source perhaps of some spiritual knowledge and peripheral symbol of their cultural heritage, a talking point, one who has no vital role to play in the course of their life: other than perhaps for what is obligatory and involuntary. Involuntary in terms of the experience of their infantile Baptism and Chrismation which has not been activated and which bears no active meaning or significance in their everyday life: and obligatory in terms of their ritualistic ceremonial and lifeless participation and unwilling compliance to the Sacraments of the Church and God’s Commandments during the course of their life until death.
Little do they know of the vital and important role of the priest in protecting them against the deception and delusion of the devil. Little do they know that the perceived dismissiveness of the priest is not to do with their person but for the correction of their ways, founded on the primary responsibility to set their relationship with God right through obedience and living a Sacramental life.
It is not the role of the priest to be pre-occupied with how to please, so that he can strike a personable social and working relationship with people. The relationship that the priest must always have foremost in his mind, is the guidance he must offer to ensure that his flock set their relationship with God along the right path, even if it is not what members of his flock may want to hear. Although kind words are useful in achieving this end, the use of flattering words are not, in that they appeal to pride.
In their relationship with the people of the early Church, the Apostles knew of the importance of this primary relationship with God which took precedence over all other relationships and dealings in the world ensuring that they always spoke the truth, and resisted at all cost the crafty deception and delusion of the devil. This grace and enlightenment from above protected them from inadvertently partaking in the attacks from the ‘right’ whilst imparting the Word of God to the people.
“But as we have been approved by God” said St Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:4) “to be entrusted with the gospel even so we speak not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts”. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness — God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.”
Rev. Emmanuel Stamatiou,
Parish Priest of The Annunciation Of Our Lady Perth, (W.A)
“Satan, the Great Deceiver”
When I was much younger and attending university in my home-town of Sydney (in those days a much smaller and less busy place), I was allocated a particular lecturer who prided himself on being an atheist. “Religion is something for weak people, those who cannot think or live for themselves”. Arriving at his first lecture this man proudly announced that with a few premises, sub-conclusions and a watertight conclusion, he would prove beyond any doubt that God did not exist.
It went something like this:
God is assumed to exist.
This God is said to be all-powerful and all loving
However, Evil also would seem to exist
Either God cannot or will not remove evil from this world
If he cannot, he is not the all-powerful one
If he will not, he is not the all loving one
Evil exists in this world
Therefore God does not exist!
This argument is in fact nonsense. However, the fact that it was used at all does reflect something of the confusion of this world and of the people who live in it.
Well, what does this have to do with our topic “Satan the Great Deceiver”? It is at the very heart of this statement. As Christian people, we know that God and evil are far more complex than this little argument can express. We know by faith and experience that God is not only real, but that he is the reason that the universe continues to exist. Sadly we cannot forget the other reality that is so ridiculously dealt with by this argument – Evil does exist, it is not imaginary or simply the result of an ”argument”.
The Macquarie Dictionary defines the word ‘deceit’ as:
1. “The act of practice of deceiving; concealment or perversion of the truth for the purpose of misleading; fraud; cheating.”
2. “An act or device intended to deceive; a trick; stratagem.”
The word ‘deceive’ as: “To mislead by a false appearance or statement; delude”.
This is exactly the starting point for our topic. Satan is the great deceiver because he is the greatest concealer, the mightiest perverter of truth, the ultimate misleader, and the most convincing fraud and liar. Satan’s goal is two pronged. He wishes to convince us that God is neither all-powerful nor all loving, and that he, Satan, seems to be something he really is not.
I am not seeking to answer the age-old problem of evil in this world, nor will I even explain (or should I say try and explain) the existence of evil. What I wish to share with you is my feeble attempt at highlighting the work of Satan at work around and within us. This will not really be a lecture. It is an attempt to uncover Satan like we might uncover a serpent hiding beneath a rock or expose a camouflaged insect hiding in the foliage of a tree.
I cannot possibly add to the already vast writings about evil and Satan that we have from so many writers of the Church. I can however take you all through a journey of Scripture and Church texts which show how much a trickster Satan is. Satan is real and he is at work, it is this we need to keep in mind. We must remember to keep our eyes on God, and yet never to leave Satan free to cast deceit in our lives. His ultimate purpose is to keep all of us from the Kingdom of Heaven. To do this, he will use everything in his power. Be warned he is the master of disguise and the master of surprise!
I want all of you to use your imagination. I want you to imagine that you can see the spiritual world with your physical eyes. If you could look around with those now spiritual eyes you would angels and demons walking about us seeking their influence upon us. The old cartoon image of a man in the midst of making an important moral decision with a small angel on his right shoulder and a small demon on his left is not that far from spiritual reality at all.
In the Orthodox Church we are encouraged to pray a prayer to our guardian angel to guide and protect us through our daily life; see, for example, the order for ”Evening Prayers” in the book “Book of Prayers: A Selection for Orthodox Christians” from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia. Likewise we are told of the influence of demons whose purpose is to deceive us – to take our attention away from God who can save us. “And this is the promise that He has promised us – eternal life” (1 John 2:25, RSV).
What of Satan in the Scriptures, what do we know of him – this Satan, the great deceiver? God created spiritual beings called angels. These beings, although having no physical aspect to their being, are nevertheless real and effectual in their work in both the spiritual realm of Heaven and this physical environment of our universe. These angels have different responsibilities and actions. In many places of the Scriptures we read of Cherubim, Seraphim, angels, archangels, Principalities, Powers, Thrones, Dominions etc. Some of the archangels are named – Uriel, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. In the Scriptures, these beings are not some impersonal force simply being the expression of God at work in this world. Angels form a very real part of the history of God’s work of salvation in this world. The Archangel Gabriel figures prominently in the account of the Annunciation. The acceptance of her who is to become the Theotokos is to the action of God is to be means through which God brings salvation to the fallen world.
Just as the angels are real and significant in Holy Scripture and the story of God’s salvation, so too are the fallen angels, the demons and Satan himself. Evil, it would seem, has appears and takes its place in this world. We need to be careful here concerning the origin of evil. That topic is one beyond the scope of this talk this evening and certainly beyond my capacity as a member of this sinful and fallen race. Lucifer or Satan is not a story invented to explain why this world is not perfect. He is not some figure invented so that we may have a focus for discussion. Satan is a distinct spiritual being with a distinct and evil personality who works in opposition to God. The very real and personal being who is Satan is at the very heart of some important passages of Holy Scripture, and also in the writings of the Fathers of our Holy Church.
It is important for us to look at what the Holy Scriptures tell us about this figure called Satan. I will not tried to give an exhaustive ‘concordance’ of Biblical references to the words ‘Satan’ ‘Devil’ and ‘demon’. There are, however some references that are important to understanding the nature of the Devil, and relevant to us this evening. Scripture shows us this deception that Satan tries to use upon those who claim allegiance to God.
In Jude verse 6 and 7 we read of his entry into our world: “And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him (that is the Lord) in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire”.
There is a hint here of a truth we have learned from the teaching of our Church (see Revelation 12:7-17). Satan was once an Archangel – The bearer of the light before the throne of God (that can be a translation for the name Lucifer). This archangel was not content with his position in the order of the spiritual world. He desired the worship that was due only to God himself. Satan and all the angels that followed him were cast down from heaven to “deceive the whole world”.
From this extract from Jude’s epistle we can learn:
1. God has chained Satan and his demons. They are restricted by the power of God.
2. God will judge The Prince of evil on the last day – The Day of Judgment.
These are important truths that need to be impressed upon us. Satan and his demons are ultimately to be judged by God. The righteous of God can be deceived, but deception involves the will of he who is being deceived. If the righteous man stands firm in faith, then Satan has no hold over him!
From the Old Testament Book of Job, we read that there was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each on his day; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “Whence have you come?” Satan answered the LORD, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nought? Hast thou not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse thee to thy face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only upon himself do not put forth your hand.” So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
There are many truths we can glean even from a casual reading of this poetic and beautiful passage of Holy Scripture:
1. Job was an upright man who turned away from evil.
2. Without doubt God is the master here.
3. Though Job is a righteous man, he can still be tempted by the deceits of Satan.
4. Satan, through the evil world can inflict pain and suffering upon Job, but Job is ultimately in the hands of God.
Now we cannot make doctrine from just a couple of passages of Scripture, but these verses do illustrate clearly what God has revealed to us in his Church.
Satan has no control except the power of deceit. He seeks to lead us away from God; he tempts us to lose our focus. Like the experience of Peter, walking on the water in front of our Lord, Satan seeks to have us sink into our own raging sea of doubt and fear (see Matthew 14:25f). We sink, not because Satan defeats God who is with us, nor because of the pain and suffering of this evil world, but because we are led to believe that either God is not with us at all or that God is not what he says he is. This is deception, deception of the greatest of tricksters.
St Peter the Apostle warns, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Satan is truly prowling around us with his demons. He seeks to influence and deceive us even here within this Holy Church. Remember, he is not a ‘roaring lion’ he is ‘like a roaring lion’ he is only pretending to be something he is not. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
I would like to share with you an illustration that we have all seen. It is a visual rendering of the passage of Scripture that speaks of the ‘two gates’ from Matthew’s Gospel:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
There is an illustration you can buy as a small religious picture; it is a famous illustration. It is a comparison of two scenes. In one, we find a demon playing a musical instrument to accompany countless people entering into a wide gate by an equally wide and easy road. The people walk past all sorts of buildings housing all sorts of pleasures. Sadly, even though the gate is wide and the way easy, the eventual destination is hell itself.
In the other scene there is a high wall broken only by a very narrow and low gate, and into this gate squeeze only a few people carrying their cross on their journey. The road three this gate is very difficult, with rocks and obstacles along the way. The path leads up a steep mountain. The eventual destination here is heaven and a crown of glory being presented by Christ. The relevant Scriptural passage here is “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
This picture illustrates exactly the words spoken in the Scriptural passage. Life is a journey, it tells us. We must decide which road to take. Each road is entered through a gate. One gate is wide and easy, the other is difficult and requires great effort. Each gate leads to a road, one easy and comfortable, the other hard and steep. One leads to heaven to the very person of God and reward – salvation, the other to hell and the very teeth of the person of the devil.
Look carefully at this illustration it can teach us much. The many that enter into the wide gate do so because the way is easy (requiring no real effort of life). There is music and there is song, laughter, entertainment, comfort and no lacking of physical things. The demon playing the musical instrument does so openly. He does not seek to disguise his presence or his identity.
These people belong to the world and therefore to Satan, because they have allowed themselves to be deceived. Yet this deception is no great miracle or magic. Satan does not have to play a great ruse. He merely has to offer the temptation of comfort and pleasure without God and the world will come and take it from his very hands.
I was rather troubled while doing some research for tonight’s presentation. I decided to type the words ‘Satan’, ‘Devil’ and ‘demon’ into the search area of my Internet search engine. Match after match came up. Some of these were useful articles or commentaries on passages from Holy Scripture. Others were lectures and essays about various theories concerning the existence of evil. However, many were the web pages of Satanic churches (so called) and organisations that sought to spread the influence of Satan. You may be surprised that these organisations practise their evil work so openly. As I said previously, Satan does not have to hide from the world, it is already given over to him. The world has rejected God and embraced Satan as the great redeemer.
The most cunning deception of Satan lies not through the wide and easy gate, but through the narrow gate. Look closely at the man (one of only a few) who is carrying his cross in fulfilment of the command of our Lord (c/f Matthew 16:24). If this man would use his physical eyes, he would see that it is impossible for him to enter this gate even without the cross he is carrying. Common sense, worldly sense would convince him that his intended lifestyle is not achievable.
Satan is at work in our minds and hearts as we contemplate this spiritual scene. He is saying to us that not only is the Christian commitment difficult it is unattainable! Satan’s attack upon us as Christians is to try and deceive us into giving up the Christian struggle. As Christians we are encouraged to believe that the improbable walk up the steep path of our Christian journey is not by our own power, but by the presence and power of God (see Matthew 19:26). Satan deceives by telling us that we must rely upon ourselves, and therefore Christianity is futile.
All of us, I am sure, would claim allegiance to the resurrected and ascended Son of God. The closer one is to God and the Kingdom of heaven, the stronger and more deceitful Satan must become. In many of the spiritual writings of the Church we find accounts of Holy men and women who have been confronted with the most horrifying visions of evil.
Satan plays out his deception according to the faith and life of those that he is tempting. To some who are far from God or who do not know him at all, there are no wondrous tricks, miracles or great signs and wonders; there is no need for such things. For others who are close to God, Satan must work hard to deceive – for these he will even attempt to copy the very power and glory of God himself.
Many atheists within this world (like the university lecturer whose silly games we started with tonight) arrogantly proclaim that they are more than happy to believe in God if only someone would prove that God exists. Yet it is often these very same people who are so willing to place their lives into the practice of open evilness, of destruction or hatred.
Have you ever thought about that image of Satan that we see in advertising and in the movies, the one where he is depicted as a troublesome comical figure in a goatee beard, a red suit with horns and a pointing long tail. In his hand he holds a trident with which he pokes people in an almost amusing way. This image is ridiculous, and even we, the Christians, might see it as a harmless parody. However, the truth is that it is a depiction of Satan. He is not shown in a disguise as someone he is not. He might seem humorous and even comical, but he is still openly Satan! Satan does not have to hide from the world; he is already master of it. His deceit is an easy one.
The greatest deceit, the great victory of Satan is not that he is leading a willing world to destruction, it is that he is, sadly, often able to deceive and lead astray the Christian person who is struggling to be transformed more and more into the image of Christ (see in particular Rom 12:2). Satan deceives the Christian by convincing him to take his attention off Christ. To become doubting of the power and promises of God.
How do we resist this deceit? What is the response of the Christian person to the wiles of the Devil? Again the Holy Scriptures are clear. The two Epistles of St Peter the Apostle that are contained in the New Testament are wondrous builders of faith. In the introductory notes that we find at the beginning of the Second Epistle of Peter in the Orthodox Study Bible (New Testament and Psalms New King James Version; Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee 1993), there is a marvellous summary of the theme of Peter’s Epistles:
“Though the world disbelieves, deceives and mocks, Christians are to grow continually in holiness and virtue and pursue an entrance into ”the everlasting kingdom” which is to come”.
The answer for the Christian is to continually seek God and His Kingdom; to fight the deceits of the Devil, despite the pain and suffering he can cause, with a faith founded upon the All-powerful and All-loving God.
Be reliant upon God and His holiness; be close to His Church, receive often the Sacraments that he freely offers to us. Resist evil and cling only to God.
From the Epistle of St James: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8a).
Satan can only deceive he cannot pluck us out of the hand of God, he cannot send us unwillingly from the kingdom of God. If God no longer becomes the focus of our vision and life, it is not He who has moved, it is that we have taken our gaze from him!
There are three short Homilies by St John Chrysostom (the Golden-mouthed). These addresses are not well known. They are entitled collectively as ‘Three Homilies Concerning the Power of Demons’ (as found in an English translation ‘A select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church’; T & T Clarke Edinburgh 1889). The first is referred to as being “Against Those Who Say That Demons Govern Human Affairs” and the second and third “On the Power of Man to Resist the Devil”. We find no graphic depiction of the battle of Armageddon (as described in the book of Revelations), no portrayal of the Devil as a figure who has the ability to secretly steal Christians away from God. No, these sermons were written to:
“… deal with errors against which Chrysostom throughout his life most strenuously contended. In an age of great depravity there seem to have been many who tried to excuse the weak resistance which they made to evil, both in themselves, and in others, by maintaining that the world (and by implication the Church) was abandoned to the dominion of devils, or to the irresistible course of fate” (emphasis is added).
St Chrysostom warns his listeners against despairing because of the power of the devil:
“For he (i.e. Satan) is an enemy and a foe, and it is a great security to know clearly the tactics of your enemies … when he overcomes by deceitfulness, he does not get the better of all men … he does not overcome … by force, yet by deceitfulness” (Homily II-1).
Thankfully, Satan does not deceive all in the Church. The saints, many of whose icons are surrounding us, can be our examples of faith and Christian life because they can be our guides encouraging us to continue with our eyes fixed upon God – the one who brings salvation and life.
“The Devil is wicked; I grant this indeed, but he is wicked for himself not towards us if we are wary” (Homily III-1 of St John Chrysostom).
When we sin, we cannot blame Satan or another for our failing. Our sin is our own because we have committed it by the exercise of our own power and free will, or by our own lack of faith. Likewise, when one in the Church falls away from God, we cannot say that Satan’s power has taken him by force away from the presence of God. God forbid that we should allocate to Satan the power that he so desperately seeks. Our sin is our own and, likewise, our falling away is our own. We fall away because Satan has convinced us, through deceit, that our place is not in the Kingdom of God.
St John Chrysostom is careful to show that Satan’s deceits are many, but his intention is one. He seeks only to make us leave the presence of our loving God and to prevent us from allowing God to guide us. Satan seeks this by either convincing us that God cannot do what he has promised, by tempting us with the pleasures of this world, or by deceiving us to think that he, Satan, has power which he does not have. The power of Satan can only lead us from God if we allow him the opportunity to do so.
Some of the other great writers of the Church can be cited to give us strength against this deceit of the Devil. In these (St Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 12 15) we are exhorted to see that ‘in the sacrifice of Christ, the devil has been defeated’. Satan is vanquished already and, only by deceit, can he lead astray those who are in Christ; tempting them through promise of treasure, power or letting them fall into utter despair.
We are instructed elsewhere (St Ignatius’ Epistle to the Smyraeans III & IV) to be firm, guarding ourselves from those who seek to influence evil upon us. Not just to turn away but even to flee from them. We must understand that Satan has enticed men and women from the beginning. It is only then that he has him in his power. However Satan is ultimately bound by the power of God. His power over man is only through delusion (see St Irenaus’ Adversus Haereses). We are to keep our lives fully in God and not to fall into the temptation that the Devil puts in front of us.
In the Gospels, Christ uses the common things of life to teach the truths of God. These well-known things are weaved by him into a story that conveys God to the hearers. The spiritual writers of our Church followed the example of our Lord. In teaching their hearers many of these writers spoke of everyday things, things like grain, fields, birds, and everyday events from life. Some even used widely known stories to describe the action of Satan, for example the Fables of Aesop (also see Catechetical Sermons 21 – 24 by St Gregory of Nyssa).
Our second picture is an illustration is from one of the fables of Aesop. The fable is called THE DOG AND HIS REFLECTION. It goes something like this:
” A dog was crossing a plank bridge over a stream with a piece of meat in his mouth, when he happened to see his own reflection in the water. He thought it was another dog with a piece of meat, so he let go of his own and flew at the other dog to get his piece, too. But, of course, all that happened was that he got neither, for one was only a reflection and the other was carried away by the stream”.
The moral of the story is: “Envy not your neighbours lot; and be content with what you’ve got.”
We can apply this fable to the Church and to ourselves who see ourselves as part of it. The deceit here is the reflection that the dog saw. What he thought was real was in fact only imaginary. When applying this story to that of the human person we can ask, why do we ‘bring ourselves, by own accord, into subjection to the enemy of this life?’ (see Catechetical Sermons 21 – 24 by St Gregory of Nyssa). What is it that encourages us to push away eternal life to fall into sin? It is Satan the great deceiver who tempts us with the imaginary security of a life of wealth, comfort, pleasure and power – a life without God.
Satan can be seen in this story of our greedy dog, he is in the stream trying to convince the dog that even though he has all he needs, there is still more. Alas, this desire is based not on what God has given us, but on what we image we can and should have. Satan cannot offer the dog a real piece of meat; he can only reflect the image of the meat that already exists. Satan’s promises of peace without God are false. He tries to convince us to take his offer by copying the things of God. However, these copies are not real, there will disappear as easily as ripples do to a reflection in a stream. Satan does not take the meat from the mouth of the dog; he does not have to. He only need convince the dog to grab at more and by doing so lose what he has already been given. He plays on the greed and pride of the dog. Greed and the constant desire to be better than those around us is a common way of the world, it is not the way of a life in Christ. The temptations of the Devil often involve what we think we should have. The grace that God has given us is enough for our needs, we should use what we have been given with thankfulness and not worry about what we do not have.
A third illustration is relevant here. It is another fable from Aesop concerning a reflection in a stream (in The Stag and the Hounds): “A stag one autumn day came to a pond and stood admiring his reflection in the water. ‘Ah’ said he, ‘what glorious antlers! But my slender legs make me ashamed. How ugly they are! I’d rather have none at all’.
The stag was soon distracted from his vain musings by the noise of huntsmen and their hounds. Away he flew, leaving his pursuers a vast distance behind him. But coming upon a thicket, he became entangled by his antlers. He struggled to free himself as the baying of the hounds sounded nearer and nearer. ‘At last’ he thought, ‘If I am meant to die at the fangs of these beasts, let me face them calmly’.
But when he ceased to tremble, he found his antlers had come free. Immediately he bounded away, delighting in his legs, which carried him far away from danger. As he ran, he thought to himself, ‘Happy creature that I am! I now realise that that on which I prided myself was nearly the cause of my undoing, and that which I disliked was what saved me’.
Satan again lies within the flowing stream in this fable. Previously, we saw how Satan often deceives us into desiring what does not really exist. Here the deceit differs. Here the stag is convinced that what he has is inadequate. Previously it was pride and greed that was the downfall of the dog. Now we are reminded that vanity and extreme self-resourcefulness can be fatal. The stag knew what he wanted. However, his assessment of what was necessary or adequate for him was not right.
It is rather amazing to hear many in the Church say “I would really like to contribute more to the ministry and life of my Church, but I don’t have the necessary talents to do anything”. It’s not a matter of my antlers being just right or my legs being too thin and scrawny, but it is often a matter of “it would be too embarrassing for me to contribute anything in my Church youth group”. Perhaps it is “I would really like to say something at my youth group, but everyone would think I am stupid, or pushy”.
All of us have spiritual gifts from God; they were given to us by God at our Baptism. The Church cannot function properly, especially in times of need and challenge unless all of its members use the gifts God has given them. How can we expect the Church to stand fast against a world that rejects the Kingdom of God when the very members of that Church are not completely relying upon God?
Thankfully, it is not the combined self-reliance of all the members of our Church (or our youth group for that matter) that makes us the ‘Body of Christ’ (I Cor 12:27). It is the power and grace of God that transforms the individual members of the Church into the functioning ‘Body of Christ’ in this world.
The stag allowed his own vanity and his self-judgment to cloud his opinion of himself. Satan often deceives the members of the Church into believing that even God’s promises will not be fulfilled in them because they in themselves do not ‘have what it takes’. It is not up to us, it is up to God!
“But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?” As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ (c/f Rom 10:14-17).
Satan cannot defeat the Church that is filled with the purpose and Spirit of God. He will, however attempt to deceive those who are part of it. The Church cannot be the vehicle of God’s salvation in this world if those who see themselves as belonging to that Church are not going to use what God has given them because of fear of ridicule, vanity, embarrassment or pride.
Perhaps our stag should read the verse above that mentions “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news”! In the end it is the scrawny feet that saved the stag from the fangs of the hounds. So too, it is the feet that carry the preaching and the teaching and those who are living out their faith in this world that will save us from the deception of the snapping Devil – however scrawny and ugly those feet might appear to be!
Enough for the introduction, now for the real heart of this presentation! One of the greatest dangers for those within the Church is what is called “The New Age Movement.” Well, there is a nice red herring you might say. What has the ‘New Age Movement’ got to do with the deception of Satan? It certainly has nothing to do with us who are members of the Church! Or does it?
Sadly, the “New Age Movement” in its variety of forms, has influenced all aspects of life, and even many who see themselves as members of the Church of God are so easily influenced by this great deception of Satan. Many see the “New Age Movement” as just a way of life; living in respect of all creatures, practising non violence, being sensitive, respecting others right to believe in their particular religion. Nothing could be further from the truth. The “New Age Movement” is in fact one of the greatest attempts at deception by Satan upon Christians today!
The “New Age Movement” is not simply some broad descriptive title for a range of unrelated philosophies or teachings. It is a highly organised and motivated movement that, in its least organised form, seeks to distract Christians from concentrating upon the things of God. At its most dangerous, it seeks to destroy Christian faith and replace the historical and theological Christ with a “new” and “more relevant” Messiah figure.
In her book “The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow – The New Age Movement and Our Coming Age of Barbarism”, Constance Cumbey seeks to expose “New Age” for what it is, a well organised movement. It seeks to replace established religion, particularly in the West, with a new belief system that incorporates all beliefs and religions. Although this book is not a Christian Orthodox writing, it is useful because of its well-researched material.
“According to New Age sources, the New Age Movement is a worldwide network. It consists of tens of thousands of cooperating organisations. Their primary goal or the secret behind their ‘unity-in-diversity’ is the formation of a ‘New World Order’. The Movement usually operates on the basis of a well-formulated body of underlying esoteric or occult teachings” (Constance Cumbey, 1983, ‘The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow’ Huntington House Inc, p 54).
The “New Age Movement” can be said to be a conglomeration of various forms and expressions of the above common ideal. On the very basic level is the sort of universalism that has never been far behind the preaching of the Christian Gospel. This is the notion that all religions are really the same and if we can cross-fertilise one to another, then we will have the perfect world of peace and harmony. It is this strand of the Movement that expresses the “common basis” for all religions and cultures. Each one is seen as being no better or “no more right” than the other.
The openly more organised level is a collection of very powerful organisations that work to a common ideal of preparing for a “Messiah” who will come to redeem the world from war, pollution, hunger and every other problem besetting humankind. It is rather telling that the name this particular person is often given is “The Bearer of Light”. As we saw much earlier tonight, this can be a translation of the name “Lucifer.”
Now, I am sure many of us find such information on organised evil groups as fuel for the development of conspiracy theories, the true identity of the Anti-Christ etc. However, for Christians to use all their energy in pinpointing a particular evil work or evil person in this world can be a distraction from one’s own salvation journey. That in itself can be a deception of Satan; to take our focus away from the person of God.
A far more subtle and potentially more dangerous Satanic deception lies behind the more basic unorganised expression of the “New Age Movement”. It is not the expression of “New Age” in the world that should concern us, as much as its influence within the Church of God.
Sadly we can find particular “New Age” practices and beliefs even with many members of the Orthodox Churches. Seemingly simple activities such as reading one’s stars, experimenting with the occult, using “healing crystals”, practising eastern forms of meditation and certain ‘holistic medicine’ practices etc are expressions of what the “New Age Movement” is encouraging. These things are destructive to one’s Orthodox Christian faith precisely because they seek to take away from the uniqueness and central importance of Christ and the “Kingdom of heaven.” Anything that can do this will also slowly but surely chip away at the prime place of importance that Christ and the Gospel has in our lives as Orthodox Christians.
I would like to quote from a recent article from the religious column of a major Australian newspaper:
“There is a recognition that we will all only ever have the chance to know the truth completely when we come together with those who are approaching the truth from completely different and even a contradictory perspective from ourselves.
“Mahatma Gandhi the great Hindu, suggested that Christ could become the Way for non-Christians, as well as Christians, if he could be unchained from the shackles of Christianity.”
Now, coming from a non-Christian religion this would be bad enough, but coming from a writer who claims allegiance to the Christian Gospel, this can only be seen as part of a great Satanic deception. Sadly I have found this deluded attitude even among some Orthodox people as well!
Saints of the Holy Church have died for the uniqueness of the message of the Christian Gospel. Men and women have been tortured and led to horrible deaths because they refused to compromise what has been the unchangeable foundation of the Christian faith. The Holy Tradition of our Church is not something that we can mould, like play-do, according to what the world wishes it to be.
Constance Cumbey, in her book, uncovers a vast interconnected movement that seeks a “New World Order”; this should not surprise us. After all the world has rejected God. What is troubling about this book, is how many Christian people pick up seemingly innocent lifestyles and activities that darken further and further the likeness of Christ within them.
Like so much of the deceptive actions of Satan, individual things or practices in themselves are not necessarily great evils. However, their effect taken together in any one particular person can compound into a serious danger to that person’s spiritual life and ultimately to that person’s salvation.
Many of us would remember Fr Tychon, a one time Confessor Priest-Monk from Mount Athos. We would remember a warm and wise man who is now the Abbot of Stavronikita Monastery. Fr Tychon wrote a short article entitled “The Antichrist and the Second Coming of Our Lord”. This article has been translated into English, and is well worth all of us studying.
I would like to quote some of Fr Tychon’s conclusions: “The activity of the Antichrist and the beast, regardless of how much power they are allowed to have from God, will never acquire any authority over the souls of God’s servants. As it was with Job… but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (I Cor 10:13b).
“Only the conscious denial of Christ deprives man of salvation. No hidden action or symbol of the evil one can harm or have an influence on the believer.”
Truly, Satan is the great deceiver because he portrays himself as having power and influence that he does not really have. He is the greatest trickster because he casts an image that strikes fear and despair even into the hearts of those touched by the power of God.
Satan deceives because he seems to appear where he really cannot be and he tries to tempt all people (even the saved), in venturing where they should not go.
To my university lecturer of so long ago I say, yes Satan exists and is at work. However, does that mean that God does not exist? On the contrary, the all-powerful and the all-loving God has given us all we need to resist and fight against the deceits of Satan.
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful; because your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. To him be the dominion for ever and ever” (1 Peter 5:6-11).
Rev. Timothy Evangelinidis
Parish Priest of St. George Hobart, (TAS)
The Great Sin of our Generation
During the 1960’s and 1970’s parents were particularly cautious to ensure that their daughters did not engage in sex before marriage. This message did not seem to apply equally to their sons. This difference and inconsistency in standards is peculiar. Today, if what is heard is to be believed, young people of both sexes are engaging in casual sex and sexual relationships outside of marriage. Sex outside marriage is considered a serious sin in the Orthodox Church. A pure and virgin state is essential for both males and females before marriage. Today, sexual freedom appears to be accepted by some with little regard to what the Church has to say on this matter. Married persons who indulge in sexual activity outside the blessed marriage also commit a serious sin. If someone is not Orthodox and does not wish to practice the faith then what can we say to these people who willingly or through ignorance continue to live in darkness. But for those who have been Baptised Orthodox who hear the word of God and continue to pursue this sinful path then there is a grave danger of the loss of their soul unless they repent. The precondition for repentance is a heart felt sorrow which pierces every aspect of a person’s being. It is a sorrow of great magnitude with the realisation or living contrary to the Will of God.
St. Paul said to the Corinthians, “godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death”. We must let go of our passions which tie us to short lived earthly pleasures and the destruction of the soul and replace these with a longing for all that is good and heavenly in order to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
What St. Paul has to say: “For this is the Will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality: that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honour…” (1 Thess. 4:3).
Remember that Baptism joins us with Christ. As is chanted in our Church during the Baptismal and Chrismation service in the words of St. Paul “As many as have been Baptised in Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).
As our body has been joined with Christ we are one with Him. Our body houses the Holy Spirit. To the Corinthians St. Paul writes “Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinth 6:13).
“Flee from sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinth. 6:18).
Parents from a very young age instruct your children by your good example in regard to these matters. Ensure that virginity is highly valued and preserved so that the Marriage is blessed as a Holy Institution from which the fruits in turn continue to hear the word of God in an unbroken chain of living Truth as is the Church.
Wherever we fall short, let us be filled with sorrow and seek the forgiveness and mercy of our Lord.
Rev. Emmanuel Stamatiou,
Parish Priest of The Annunciation Of Our Lady Perth, (W.A)
The kiss of a young child
Following the service of the Divine Liturgy one Sunday while I was preparing for a Baptism I was approached by a little girl who was about five years of age. There was no one else in the Church at the time. I stopped what I was doing, for she remained still and close by my side. I was busy positioning the font and preparing the table upon which the holy Gospel was to be placed along with other essential items required for the Sacrament. Having realised that the little person was waiting patiently at my side I turned around, looked down and asked, can I help you? Yes she said, I would like to kiss your hand. She kissed my hand and immediately exited the Church.
Why would a little girl be so happy to kiss the hand of a deacon? Who taught her that this was a good thing to do and for what benefit? From what I could see the child initiated the action herself, there was no adult in sight. She did not kiss the hand to receive a sweet.
She left with a blessing. She could not show it to her mother and say look what I have got, but what she received was very real, as it was real for the person through whom the blessing was given. I was deeply touched by the little girl’s presentation and pure heart. I was humbled by her approach. Many adults cannot humble themselves to receive such a blessing. What most people see is the hand of an unworthy priest.
What is important to understand however, is that the hand of the priest which bears the blessing does not emanate from his person or his personality but from his priesthood which is greater than himself and anyone who serves within the priesthood. The blessing is God’s blessing and if discharged with faith; both the priest and the recipient are humbled before God.
This young child was in a spiritual place, the house of God. She came to receive God’s love and blessing and walked away with joy. He received a blessing which came from God and is beyond every person’s comprehension. For this blessing there can be no distinction made between a child and an adult if we approach the priest in the correct manner. She, like all innocent children of God seek out the blessing through a pure and sincere heart. This state of Grace is often lost however by adults who choose to rely on reason rather than placing their trust in God.
The kiss of peace
In the early Church it was common place for Christians to greet each other with a holy kiss. St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians instructed “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (1 Cor 16:20) When you see bishops, priests or deacons of the Orthodox Church greet each other, they usually do so with a holy kiss and embrace. During the Divine Liturgy at the call of the deacon, “Let us love one another that we may with one mind confess…”, the celebrants in the sanctuary go through the gestures of embracing and kissing one another while the congregation, through the choir, sing “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in essence and inseparable”. In the earlier years of the Church all the members of the congregation participated in this practice. This call for love and unity takes place immediately before the Creed which forms the confession of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity.
The kiss it may reveal us
I believe much is revealed about the inner person when relating even to the most simplest of gestures. Some have learned to bow their head gently before a priest as a sign of respect. This is usually carried out whilst simultaneously shaking the priest’s hand. To me this communicates a certain level of respect but also some discomfort and uncertainty in regard to the relationship with the priest and his authority as a father confessor and minister of Christ.
Others are accustomed only to the shaking of the priest’s hand which belongs more to the world of social introductions and financial transactions. This form of greeting does not communicate spirituality and appears only to acknowledge the man and not the priesthood to which he belongs. There are also those who choose to offer only a verbal greeting to the priest. This to me communicates familiarity and a rather lax attitude. For the Orthodox Christian who knows about the true role of the priest, the appropriate greeting is to seek out God’s blessing by the kissing of his hand, which incidentally is not always offered freely, but should be sought out by the faithful where circumstances allow it.
Of course what I have described here is based only on my observations and impressions. I am certain that there would be many who would not agree with these thoughts. But conversely it also applies that those who visibly and observably kiss the hand of the priest may be doing so out of habit and without sincerity. Equally those who do not kiss the hand of the father may choose to do so to dispense with all pretence. But it is also appropriate to say that no matter what the interpretation it is important to know what is Orthodox and belongs to holy tradition; and this has much to do with what St. Paul wrote about to the Colossians when he asked that Christians should always act with the sincerity of the heart. (Col. 3:23-4).
St. Luke records the account of the sinful woman who wept so much that she washed Christ’s feet with her tears and then wiped them dry with her hair. She was so heavily weighed down by sin that she kissed the feet of Jesus continuously anointing them with fragrant oil. She was forgiven her many sins because she loved Christ so much. “But to whom little is forgiven”, said Christ “the same loves little.” (Luke 7:47) Meaning that the forgiveness of sins comes to those who truly love Christ. All of us have a great multitude of sins; if we do not seek Christ’s forgiveness then we show that we do not truly love Christ and acknowledge what He has done for us. Let us therefore seek out Christ’s blessings and mercy and in what ever way is possible let us set our relationship with the priest and the Church along the right path.
The kiss of Judas
Let our kiss be not like that of Judas. Judas used a kiss not as a sign of love for Christ but as a sign to identify Him and betray Him. “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him” said Judas (Matt 26:48).
Rev. Emmanuel Stamatiou,
Parish Priest of The Annunciation Of Our Lady – Perth, (W.A.)
The Long Line
Thoughts on life style issues of today, being Orthodox and receiving Holy Communion
I clearly remember the service of the Divine Liturgy held on the Saturday morning of Holy Week last year. There were quite a few people in the Church that morning but nothing could have prepared me for the crowd that was to appear close to the end of the service. Why such a big crowd? A long and seemingly endless line had formed. How long was this line? The line started from the steps below the Royal Doors at the front of the Church and continued all the way to the rear spilling outside along Parker Street around the corner to Francis Street, past the rear of the Church and beyond. Inside the Church there were two lines where Holy Communion was offered by Father and myself.
So many not seen before
So many people we had never seen before and they were present to receive the Holy Body and Blood of Christ….with little or no preparation at all! The crowd was big but how many of these people should have presented themselves to receive Holy Communion?
If you are not Orthodox, you cannot receive Holy Communion, under any circumstances. You cannot receive Holy Communion even if you have been married in the Orthodox Church. You can only receive Holy Communion if you have been Baptised and Chrismated Orthodox. If you do wish to become Orthodox then you must undergo at least 6 months of Catechism classes before you can be Baptised and Chrismated. Only by this means do you become a member of the Orthodox Church. Your marriage to someone Baptised Orthodox does not entitle you to receive Holy Communion.
If you are Orthodox
If you are Baptised Orthodox and have married outside the Orthodox Church, be it through a registry office, garden-park setting, non- canonical Church, or any Christian denomination Church, your legally recognised marriage is not recognised by the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church requires you to have undergone the Sacrament of Marriage in a canonically recognised Orthodox Church. If you have not been married in the Orthodox Church you cannot receive Holy Communion, even if you have been Baptised Orthodox and irrespective of how prepared you may think you may be to receive the Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
If you have been Baptised Orthodox and are living with someone (or have done so in the past), even if this someone is Orthodox, you cannot present yourself to receive Holy Communion unless you have confessed you sin to the Spiritual Father and he has allowed it that you receive Holy Communion. You cannot present yourself for Holy Communion in any situation where you have been involved in sexual relations that have occurred outside of Marriage in the Orthodox Church. Unless that is, you have confessed you sins to a Spiritual Father of the Orthodox Church and he has granted you permission to receive Holy Communion.
Those who have been Baptised Orthodox and have received the blessing of an Orthodox Marriage but have committed an adultery, cannot present themselves to receive Holy Communion unless they have sought the forgiveness of their sins through the Sacrament of confession by a Spiritual Father of the Orthodox Church and he has granted you permission to receive Holy Communion.
Persons involved in any casual sexual relationships cannot present themselves for Holy Communion unless they have confessed their sins to a Spiritual Father of the Orthodox Church and He has granted them permission to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Even when attending Confession you may be excluded from receiving Holy Communion until such time as proper penance has been made under the guidance of the Spiritual Father.
Holy things for Holy People
St Paul warns us not to partake of Christ”s Body and Blood lightly. “Whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner” says St Paul “will be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:27)
If we come to receive Holy Communion in an unworthy manner we effectively approach the Lord with inner immorality which is known to God and for which we must give a full account at the Last Judgement of the Second Coming of Christ. We cannot be seeking forgiveness of sins at the Last Judgement. By then it will be too late. Now is the time to seek God”s mercy and forgiveness which is all love. Now is the time to prepare to receive Him by examining ourselves and reconciling ourselves with one another and with God. “I observe many partaking of Christ’s Body lightly and incidentally, from custom and ordinance” said St John Chrysostomos, “rather than from consideration and understanding.” When one says, ”The holy season is at hand, whatever sort one may be, he partakes of the mysteries…But this is not the occasion for Communion, for neither Theophany (the revealing of God) nor Lent makes us worthy to come forward, but sincerity and purity. With these, come forward always, without them, never.”
St John further alerts us not to draw near unprepared to receive the Sacrifice of Our Lord at which “the very angels tremble.”
“And how shall you stand before the judgement seat of Christ, you who dare to receive His Body with polluted hand and lips? You would not presume to kiss a king with a foul-smelling mouth, but you kiss the King of Heaven with a reeking soul? This is an outrage.” (4th Century, Daily readings from the writings of St John Chrysostomos ed. Fr Anthony M. Coniaris, Light and Life pub. Pp. 26)
How long the line?
How long will the line of Saturday Holy Week be this year? Yes Christ died on the Holy Cross for our sake, He offers Himself for us, He grants us forgiveness of sins, but are we interested? We do not fathom the preciousness of His Holy Gifts. Rather we approach without fear or self-examination, pride and the cares of the world have overtaken us. We are spiritually unconscious to the illness of our soul. We are without prayer and full of personal customary tradition which bears no relationship to the Church and Holy Tradition. When will we stop and listen? When will we prepare ourselves for Christ? When will we shed a tear for our sins?
Rev. Emmanuel Stamatiou,
Parish Priest of The Annunciation Of Our Lady – Perth (W.A)