Yesterday’s gospel reading (Matthew 4: 12 – 17) declares the commencement of the public ministry of Christ. Christ’s message is unambiguous: “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The light of Christ illuminates all and now, the people living darkness have seen a great light and for those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Once, Christ was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming. In response, Christ made it plain that “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).
The orthodox understanding of the kingdom of God is not just only and eschatological expectation. It is made present and real every time the Divine liturgy is celebrated. “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Is the first declaratory benediction reminding us that the kingdom is made present. God’s kingdom is something that we will experience, not only in the age to come, but here and now. This is because there is communion and union with and in Christ.
Make no mistake: every time we celebrate the Divine liturgy we make Christ present amongst us. Not by way of facsimile, not seemingly, and certainly not symbolically, but Christ is with us in reality. For the bread is flesh indeed and the wine is blood indeed. Through the divine liturgy we make this world otherworldly and bring into this world the heavenly kingdom. The kingdom of God is not earthly, physical, material or transient. It is immaterial and permanent. It is what we all aspire for – the heavenly kingdom. And where is this heavenly kingdom within us? – In the heart. St Makarios of Egypt said this: “the heart is a small vessel, but all things are contained in it; God is there, the angels of there, there is also life and kingdom, the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace.”
So here it is. The physical doorway to the heavenly kingdom is the front door of the church. For unless you are within the church you cannot participate in holy Communion and if you cannot participate in holy Communion then Christ is not present within and if Christ is not present within then there is no light to illuminate you. So you continue to sit in darkness and despair. All the while the kingdom within you is atrophying and under siege of the evil one – and it will fail and fall. So watch ever vigilantly, repent, renounce the world and run to Christ, for Christ is both the way and the remedy. Now, why would you separate yourself from His church? It just makes no sense!
Around our church
- There is no liturgical program for the coming week. The church will be closed on Saturday morning for the ordination of Mr Neal Kakulas – so no English liturgy. Liturgy on Sunday as per normal.
- Do not forget to tune into 6 EBA FM for the “hour of orthodoxy” from 5 to 6 PM tomorrow afternoon, also, on the same radio station each Thursday from 1:30 PM to 3 PM (English liturgy) and from 4:30 PM to 6 PM (Greek liturgy) recorded at St Nektarios.
- Our food store needs long life milk, flour (plane and self raising) rice, tomato sauces, tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, coffee, tea, honey, jams, oil, biscuits, toilet paper, washing powder, dishwashing liquid, sponges, scourers, ladies and men’s toiletries, ladies hygienic products, pasta, biscuits, and nuts.
- Attached hereto please find the rubrics for this coming Sunday’s liturgy.
Thought of the week
Western moral philosophy has failed us. Over the centuries the western world has chosen which philosophical roads to follow. If you think this is not an important issue for you then think again. David Brooke put it most eloquently when he said that there are three major failures in Western philosophical thought. The West chose Jeremy Bentham instead of Victor Frankl. It chose René Descartes instead of St Augustine and it chose Thomas Hobbes instead of Martin Buber. In other words we have chosen to centre our thoughts around pleasure and pain whereas they should be organised around meaning in life. We have chosen to be cognitive creatures in preference to being emotional and longing creatures and we have chosen to think of ourselves as individuals rather than as encounter with the other. So it boils down to this: we are selfish, isolated, materialistic and hedonistic creatures – now isn’t that what the Bible tells us what we should not be.
Till next time.
Father John Athanasiou 0411 061 554