Yesterday’s gospel reading (Matthew 2:13 – 23) is a timely reminder of how intimately entwined are the good things and bad things of life. On one hand is a birth of a child that is destined to bring salvation to the world. A child of whom the angels sing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased”. It is this same child that causes the death of the male innocents two years of age and under (of whom our church accords the number of 14,000 (commemorated on the preceding day) as martyred) and thus bringing to fulfilment the prophecy of Jeremiah: “a voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more”. Life-and-death, evil and goodness being generated by one act.
If you reflect upon life you will see that there is no such thing as unmitigated, relentless evil nor is there such a thing as a constant state of felicitous bliss. The good is always streaked with a bad and evil ultimately is met by the good. However, for evil to be overcomed it needs the active participation and desire and determination of those that seek to overcome it.
If we can use a gumboot as analogy we can gain some insight into the problem. The purpose of the gumboot is to keep our feet dry and warm and whilst it has no holes it achieves that purpose. Cold and wet feet from the water and mud outside are avoided. Once a gumboot has a hole in it water pours in. Now a hole, of itself, is nothing . However it is that ” nothing” that breaches the integrity of the gumboot thus rendering it useless. Let us now call the water and mud: “evil”, let’s call the hole: “sin,” let’s call the gumboot: “man” and let’s call the purpose of the gumboot “salvation”. So the question now is how do we avoid getting holes in our gumboot?
The sad answer is we cannot. Whilst we breathe and live and have our being we will incline to sin. We will walk our gumboots on paths which shred it , or, our gumboot will be drilled with holes from those around us. Either way our gumboot will no longer fit for purpose. So, what is the solution? The answer is prayer, fasting, confession and above all meeting Christ in the Eucharistic cup. Christ tells us: “abide in me and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4)
So, even though we will encounter evil at every turn and that evil will seek to make us unfit for salvation, the trick is to never lose sight of the ultimate goal. It is only by attending to the holes in our gumshoe through the weapons given to us by Christ that we can have any hope of being saved. Make no mistake the devil never sleeps – and neither should we. We will be penetrated by sin on a daily basis. We need to repair ourselves on a daily basis. We fall, we rise and we fall again. It is an endless cycle for the struggling Christian. Either apostasy from Christ or our final breath brings our daily temptations to an end. But consider the result: through apostasy we become the devil’s and through constancy we become Christ’s. Simply put, it is our choice.
The program for this week is as follows: today, Monday, Vespers from 5 PM; tomorrow New Year’s Day: matins, divine liturgy, Doxology for New Year and cutting of the Vasilopita from 7:30 AM; Friday fourth of January: the Royal hours from 7 AM; Saturday fifth of January, being the Eve of Epiphany (fasting day – wine and oil allowed) matins, divine liturgy and great blessing of the waters from 7 AM; Sunday sixth of January Holy Epiphany, matins, divine liturgy and great blessing of the waters from 7 AM.**** Note *****immediately after church service we will make our way down to Matilda Bay for the throwing of the cross from 12:30 PM (there is no after church fellowship for that Sunday as we will need to be at the throwing of the cross). Monday, seventh of January, Synaxis is of St John the forerunner: matins in divine liturgy from 7:30 AM.
Please remember our food store and our support for those in need. Tomorrow, New Year’s Day, we commemorate St Basil the Great who taught deep truths about those who have and those who have not. As the great Saint put it: “he who strips a man of his clothes is to be called a thief. It is not he who, when he is able, fails to clothe the naked, worthy of no other title? The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”
The beginning of the New Year is filled with resolutions. I now give you mine: the New Year fills us all with optimism and enthusiasm which is no more than the art of the possible. The tasks that we set ourselves are all within reach. It is as if we are looking up at the bright night sky and feel that we are capable of plucking the stars that we see to make a diadem of light. Let’s pray to God that the gift of optimism and enthusiasm remain with us throughout the year. May we remain as little children gambolling and marvelling at the mystery and awesomeness of life.
Till next time.
Fr John Athanasiou 0411 061 554