Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Saint Porphyrios - Prayers for Others

Saint Porphyrios highlights that our prayers should not be self-centred, but rather centred on our fellows, and in particular the whole Church. Our prayerful desires must be centred on the Church, as 'the whole fullness of divinity dwells in the Church.' Our prayers should be for the sanctification, guidance and strength of the entire world; and by praying for others we are united in Christ, 'as we are all children of the same Father.' 

The selfless act of praying for our fellow human beings, with love and gentleness, attracts God's grace:

'When you have great love and this love moves you to prayer, then the waves of love are transmitted and affect the person for whom you are praying and you create around him a shield of protection.. you lead him to what is good. When he sees your efforts, God bestows His grace abundantly on both you and on the person you are praying for.'

However this does not mean we simply pray for others, for our own benefit. Saint Porphyrios writes that 'we must die to ourselves' - in other words it is only out of utter selflessness, humility and love, that we can grow in prayer and communion.

'I pray, I receive everyone in the Spirit of Christ, and I am eager to pray for all people. I try to love Christ. That is my aim.'

Monday, 13 July 2015

St Paisios - The Listener

What I find most moving about the life, and example of Saint Paisios is his gift of listening. Often this is overlooked by our concentration on his sayings and prophecies (which are of course important too). He would sit for hours on end listening to peoples fears, troubles, temptations, and family situations without saying very much. While giving concise, wise and divinely inspired advice, most of his time would have been spent patiently and compassionately listening to his fellow's problems, allowing them to open up and share.

Often, as Christians, we are too concerned with impressing others with pious or intellectual sayings, giving no room for others to speak, share, and open up. We should offer ourselves to others by listening to them, and by doing so, we are then able to give suitable, concise advice:

'Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak..' (James 1:19)
'A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.' (Proverbs 18:2)

Saint Paisios is an example to us all, of someone who was (and is) always there for his fellows; at any hour, prepared to listen to any concerns and anxieties. Not only every confessor or clergyman, but every Christian should be available to freely and openly listen, with warmth, patience, and compassion. When faced with difficulties, some may not need or want a great deal of advice or the noise of another man's voice; but be in desperate need for the compassionate silence and patience of our ears. 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Liturgy, Language and Ethnicity

The Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain has gone to a great deal of work, in order to incorporate Greek (following our Biblical, ecclesiastical and patristic tradition) with English, meeting the needs of the faithful flock, leading to the Church flourishing with diversity and openness to all. Generally speaking, every parish across the country offers at least one Divine Liturgy each month in English, with many celebrating Liturgy in both Greek and English on a weekly basis. The Archdiocese has produced a well-received translation of the Liturgy, an English and Greek prayer book, as well as several other publications, in its efforts to meet the needs of British-born Cypriots and Greeks, Brits, visiting students and all the Orthodox faithful who enter its parishes. 

Certainly, language poses an issue within our Archdiocese here in the United Kingdom, however I believe the fairest compromise, or rather balance, is in place. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, as the largest, well established and well integrated Orthodox Church in this country, should never be seen as some sort of ethnic or cultural club. On the contrary, it should be viewed as the Archdiocese which proudly preserves the holy and beautiful Greek language, sharing it with the faithful, and at the same time being equally accessible for English speakers and natives.

The Divine Liturgy, transcending language, culture and ethnicity, unites us all in communion. Most of the faithful are witnesses to this truth and live by it. Variations in language will not often stop people from attending church, however the attitude of its members can. Attitude is far more important than language; and in fact, perhaps the 'issue' of language is really due to the underlying problems of attitude, experienced over the years. What do I mean by attitude? I am referring to the issue of unfair treatment based on ethnicity; perhaps the priest gives more of his time and attention to Greeks than to English speaking groups of the congregation; or to Cypriots more than Greeks? These things can always be noticed by the faithful, so it is important the parish welcomes all with open arms, and mutual respect. In my experience, it is not the Greek language that is off-putting or leaves an impression on English-speaking members, but the lack of warmth, welcome and time given to them as members of the Church. 

As Greek Orthodox Christians in the United Kingdom, we should be proud of our Greek tradition - not for ethnic or nationalistic reasons, but because through this Biblical, patristic treasure, we maintain authenticity, originality, and uniqueness in our liturgical worship. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the majority of Brits and Greeks within the Archdiocese, whether fluent in the language or not, prefer the Liturgy in Greek. At the same time, through its liturgical publications, weekly bulletins (distributed to every parish ), sermons and events, the english speaker is made to feel at home, and is given no less opportunities for spiritual edification, integration and guidance, in the daily life of the Church. The clergy, and members of each parish should continue to strive to serve the faithful, united in Christ; loving one another, 'that with one mind we may confess.. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity consubstantial and undivided.'