9th Sunday after Pentecost – Readings

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St Emilian the Confessor, Bishop of Cyzicus (815-820); Afterfeast of Transfiguration;

Troparion of the Transfiguration (Tone 7)
Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ our God, / showing to Thy disciples Thy glory as each one could endure; / shine forth Thou on us, who are sinners all, Thy light ever-unending / through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Light-giver, glory to Thee!

Reading from the Holy Apostle Paul to the Corinthians
Brethren: We are labourers together with God; ye are God’s husbandry; ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For no man can lay another foundation than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, every man’s work shall be made manifest; for the Day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall test every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, and ye are that temple.

Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew
At that time, Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a boat and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up onto a mountain apart to pray. And when evening had come, He was there alone. But the boat was now in the midst of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a spirit”; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spoke unto them, saying, “Be of good cheer. It is I; be not afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.” And He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught him and said unto him, “O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” And when they had come into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “In truth Thou art the Son of God.” And when they had gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.

Aug 25 / Sept 7 – Parable of the wicked husbandmen

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33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: 34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. 42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? [Matthew 21:33-42 KJV]

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

How often do we remember God in our daily activities? How often do we take into account the will of God for our lives when we make decisions or react poorly to the actions of others? In the current world climate we have waves of violence being inflicted on others and their lives turned upside down in the name of progress, democracy, a religious state or just plain greed. We may all see this and cry out, share statements on social media and complain around the water cooler. But what do we do in our own lives?

No doubt we react as the world does, sternly and with a “proportional response”. We have forgotten the spirit of our WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) wristbands that are now lost in a drawer or keeping some important papers nicely rolled up. Most likely we would give into our passions and take wild offense, lashing out and playing the victim.

In this weeks Sunday Gospel, we see in parable form quite the opposite. We are brought to a “householder” that has built a winery and let it out to a group to manage. This was not a bare patch of earth, but a fully planted vineyard with all the facilities necessary to protect the harvest and cultivate it for the future. The “husbandmen” had been provided for in every way, their only task for the agreement they had made was to share the first fruits with the overseer and make a successful living.

Twice this householder sent servants and they were beaten and slain. Then his son was sent and again, at the thought of taking over the inheritance the wicked men took the son outside the vineyard and murdered him.

St John Chrysostom, in his homily #68 on Matthew, shares with us the rich typology of the householder with that of God’s relationship with Israel; Christ is speaking to many including Chief Priests in the temple [Matt 21:23], learned Jews who knew the scripture and presented to them a situation as had been given them as they left Egypt for the promised land, ” planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower” little was left for them to do but tend as stewards and worship. They were sent prophets to guide them and to share with them the word of the Lord, but like the servants in the parable they met often with criticism, distrust and an unpleasant ending.

And “He sent His servants,” that is, the prophets, “to receive the fruit;” that is, their obedience, the proof of it by their works. But they even here showed their wickedness, not only by failing to give the fruit, after having enjoyed so much care, which was the sign of idleness, but also by showing anger towards them that came. For they that had not to give when they owed, should not have been indignant, nor angry, but should have entreated. But they not only were indignant, but even filled their hands with blood, and while deserving punishment, themselves inflicted punishment. [St John Chrysostom Homily 68 on Matthew]

The typology here is evident, down to the taking of the “son” outside of the vineyard to be slain.

What will we do when God comes to ask us for our “first fruits”? Will we have offered him our prayer and worship? Will we have taken care for our neighbour and fed the hungry?Rather than a rubber band that is now in our drawer somewhere let us inscribe Christ in our hearts with prayer and repentance and look for His image in all we meet.

Glory to Jesus Christ

Forgiveness Sunday

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O Lord, Who art the guide to wisdom, the bestower of prudence, the instructor of the thoughtless, and the protector of the poor, strengthen and enlighten my heart. Give me the gift of expression, O Thou Who art the Word of the Father; for behold I will not prevent my lips from crying to Thee: O Merciful Lord, have mercy on me who have fallen (Kontakion – Tone 6)

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Mt 6:14–21 KJV)

While this week is commonly known as “Forgiveness Sunday” due to the right of forgiveness served before the beginning of Great Lent on the next day, the actual feast is dedicated to the expulsion from paradise or Eden. The hymns from the Lenten Triodion focus on this as we prepare our journey to the paradise of Pascha.

Adam was driven out of Paradise, because in disobedience he had eaten food; but Moses was granted the vision of God, because he had cleansed the eyes of his soul by fasting. If then we long to dwell in Paradise, let us abstain from all needless food; and if we desire to see God, let us like Moses fast for forty days.
(Third troparion of the Praises, Matins of Forgiveness Sunday)

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The Lord my Creator took me as dust from the earth, and with the breath of life he gave me a soul and made me a living creature. He honoured me as ruler on earth over all things visible and as a companion of the Angels. But Satan the deceiver, using the serpent as his instrument, enticed me by food, separated me from the glory of God and gave me over to the earth and to the lowest depths of death. But as Master and compassionate call me back again.

Wretch that I am, I have cast off the robe woven by God, disobeying your divine command, Lord, at the counsel of the enemy, and I am clothed now in fig leaves and in garments of skin. I am condemned to eat the bread of toil in the sweat of my brow, and the earth has been cursed so that it bears thorns and thistles for me. But, Lord, who in the last times were made flesh of a Virgin, call me back and bring me into Paradise again.

O precious Paradise, unsurpassed beauty, tabernacle built by God, unending gladness and delight, glory of the just, joy of prophets, and dwelling place of saints, with the sound of your leaves implore to the Maker of all to open for me the gates which I closed by my transgression, and may count me worthy to partake of the Tree of Life and of the joy in which I delighted when I dwelt in you before

Adam was banished from Paradise through disobedience and cast out from delight, beguiled by the words of a woman. Naked he sat opposite the place, lamenting ‘Woe is me!’ Therefore let us all make haste to accept the season of the Fast and obey the traditions of the Gospel, that through them we may become well-pleasing to Christ and once more receive Paradise as our dwelling.

consectration of a church – the inside view

Another youtube find for those who don’t get to see the “behind the scenes”. Rarely do many people get to see a consecration of a church. For information read through the following english version of the consecration service.

From the eadiocese website:

Published on Jul 25, 2013

Великое освящение Ольгинского храма – Джексон, шт. Нью-Джерси США

In 2013, the Eastern American Diocese commemorates the 75th anniversary of the founding of St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ. The church was founded in 1938, with the laying of the cornerstone taking place in 1940. Throughout the long years, during which the majestic Memorial Church was being built, the divine serves were held in the relatively humble lower church named in honor of the Holy Equal-of-the-Apostles Grand Princess Olga — foremother of the Russian princes and the first among them to accept Orthodoxy. This year, in honor of the Memorial Church’s jubilee, as well as the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia, the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, gave his blessing to perform the Great Consecration of the lower church.

On Tuesday the 23rd and Wednesday the 24th of July, on the very feast day of St. Olga, Metropolitan Hilarion visited Jackson and led the divine services (Metropolitan Hilarion is also the rector of the Memorial Church.) On Wednesday morning, after the greeting of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God — Protectress of the Russian Diaspora — the rite of the Great Consecration was performed, followed by the Divine Liturgy.

Pakistan Mission – Summer Youth Camp

The following report is from Father Anthony Shamoon, a Priest of the St Michael the Archangel Orthodox Mission in Pakistan describing a summer youth camp put on by the mission. I have had the pleasure of becoming aquainted with Father Anthony over the past months, communicating with him via the internet and feel intensively the love and passion to serve Christ in him and his Matushka, Maria. They are based in Hyderabad and alternatively serve two communities alternative weeks in opposite directions from where they live.

The mission in Pakistan is very practicle and focusing in on serving the needs of the poor and needy in the areas as we are called by Christ to do “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” (Matt 25:35,36 KJV)

The very thought of trying to live a Christian witness in such a hostile country fills me with fear in the relative safety of my comfortable life in Australia. Please read this report on some of the latest activities of the mission and have a look at their website for more information and instructions on how you can donate to this cause.

St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Mission Pakistan’s partners with asister organization “Humanitarian, Educational, Anti-Violence & Environmental Nurturing” (HEAVEN). http://www.heavensworks.org is a nonprofit, non religious, non political and non government social development organization to support marginalized, poor and needy communities without any discrimination based on sex, gender, religious or ethnic background.

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HEAVEN aims to endorse culture of peace in communities and strives to see co-existence of people of different religious backgrounds and ethnicity, with special concentration to youth through anti-violence education and activities.

HEAVEN has organized a two months Christian Youth Summer Camp for St. Anthony Orthodox Parish young boys and girls. The opening ceremony was held on the 9th July Tuesday, 65 participants including Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant youth members are participating in this camp.

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Main Objectives of Youth Summer Camp:

  • To provide understanding of English Language (reading, writing, listening and speaking) skill to 65 students from St. Anthony parish Hyderabad.
  • To preach Orthodox Christian faith to non Orthodox and make our presence meaningful in the Christian community in the parish.
  • To provide learning atmosphere to students and make them able to use their summer holidays effectively.
  • To provide opportunity to Christian students to be ready to face challenges in Pakistani society and be useful members of their family and society.
  • To provide awareness sessions on global warming, personality development, career guidance, comics and other disciplines of life.
  • To create environment friendly and effective learning atmosphere among youth.
  • To help youth to be self reliant, self sufficient and prosperous in practical life.

Course Component:

  • English Language Course, Learning four skills (Speaking, Reading, Writing and Listening)
  • Behavior change and Attitude Development
  • Preaching Orthodox faith
  • Personality Development
  • Weekly awareness seminars on current issues, such as global warming and environmental awareness.
  • COMICS training

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Outcomes:

  • 65 young Christian boys and girls will be able to communicate in better English and they will develop their English language skills in speaking, reading, writing and listening.
  • Non Orthodox youth will learn about Orthodoxy and will become our amassidors to preach orthodoxy to their parents and family members and this how we can be able to enter to the homes of youth.
  • They will learn behavioral change techniques.
  • Behavior and attitude will have been changed at the completion of youth summer camp
  • They will be in a better position to get job in any reputed institution at the end of the camp.
  • Christian youth will be ready to face challenges in any circumstance.
  • They will become useful members of Pakistani Society and witness Jesus Christ.
  • Parents will feel proud on the development of their offspring.
  • 65 Young Christian boys and girls will be ready to guide other youth in Issa Nagri and Christian population in Hyderabad district.

A “comic” is a series of pictures used to tell a story. Sometimes, they may be paired with words, to create dialog or explain something.

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Pascha from Moscow

From the mother land, full Paschal services at Christ the Saviour Cathedral. How you can run Pascha when you have a plethora of Metropolitans, Priests and Bishops. Absolutely beautiful! Enjoy

On the night of 4 to 5 May at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill celebrated Easter services – the midnight office, the procession, Easter Matins, and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

В ночь с 4 на 5 мая в кафедральном соборном Храме Христа Спасителя Святейший Патриарх Московский и всея Руси Кирилл совершил Пасхальные богослужения — полунощницу, крестный ход, Пасхальную заутреню и Божественную литургию свт. Иоанна Златоуста.

Holy Week and Pascha: a time to share the love of Jesus Christ

As we leave Great Lent for the I would like to suggest a switch to a more external focus. Holy Week is our final leg in the voyage to the Holy Pascha of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; but how often do we take this time to reaqlize that He came for the salvation of all.

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We tend to be worried about juggling our work and church commitments, transporting ourselves and family, perparing the final items for our Paschal Feast; what better time than the Feast of Feasts to focus on sharing the love of Jesus Christ with those who may not know Him, or know the church he established through his Apostles.

How can we do this? Should be go knocking randomly on doors and stand in the street ringing bells? Perhaps not. These are the actions that lead the Orthodox world to shy away from Evangelism. What we need is to share the love through discipleship rather than through the pen (or sword). Some may feel shy to answer questions on their faith.

Some simple suggestions for sharing the love of Christ over the coming weeks:

*Invite some of your friends to the start of the Paschal service, or the vespers Sunday night (joyous but short and sweet)
*Having a Paschal meal with friends and family, invite some non-Orthodox friends to break the fast or later on during the Paschal period. Scared about lots of questions? Ask you Priest or Deacon over for dinner as well 😉
*Many of us due to our Eastern heritage cook enough food in case the entire Mother Church is coming for dinner; take some Paschal items into the office to share with colleagues and drop an email around describing what they are and inviting people to share with you.
*Learn more about the detail of your faith or give a book to an inquiring friend (such as)
Support some local or global missions giving others the resources to spread the love of Christ (examples: ROCOR mission in Pakistan, Fund For Assistance, OCMC)

For the law is old,
but the word is new.
The type is provisional,
but grace is everlasting.
The sheep is perishable,
but the Lord,
not broken as a lamb but raised up as God,
is imperishable.
For though led to the slaughter like a sheep,
he was no sheep.
Though speechless as a lamb,
neither yet was he a lamb.
For there was once a type, but now the reality has appeared.
Melito of Sardis

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Just some short ideas to think about. May you all have a profitable Holy Week and a joyous Pascha!