Sunday, November 21, 2010

There's No Place Like Home! There's No Place like….

We have a week to go.  

Spending this much time to transition from parish life in Albuquerque to prepare for New Zealand has been beneficial. It would have been a sorry sort of stressful, had we tried to stay in Albuquerque until the very end, and from there pack up the house, and our things, complete our visa applications, with all the responsibilities of parish life and with all the worldly thing always knocking at the door of our lives. Had we gone that route I would have had regrets as nothing could have had its proper attention.  SW tells me in every phone conversation that this stuff is not easy.  By taking this long time we were able to take each element of this endeavor and treat it with the right amount of care. 

My Mother came in from Greece, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday and in time to say good bye to us. We anticipate staying up late talking to her about her trip and to just look at each other, to share a space and to say all the "I love you and I will miss you" things that need to be said. These past three months we have been using her room as our headquarters.  We have been blessed in this way too.

In New Zealand, there are lovely happenings going on, I hear.  The apartment where we are going to live is being prepared with useful things to help us and to welcome us. What Philotimo!  Some very kind souls, people who are members of that parish, are making sure that we have groceries, towels and sheets, and basic living needs.  I received an email telling me so, and I must say that a very beautiful feeling of warmth came over me as I was reading it.  The email read that their aim was that we wouldn't have to do anything once we got there.  We will be like going home to a place that was never before our home. 

I think when I get there I will fry an egg… and make a cup of coffee, and …go to the church that is right next door and sing like we did when we left Saint George's, but this time it will be the hymn of Pentecost, the Apolytikion of Holy Trinity. 

Blessed are you, O Christ our God, you have shown forth the fishermen as most wise by sending down upon them your Holy Spirit. And through them you cast your net upon the whole world. O Lover of mankind glory to You.

They most likely use a different translation there in Auckland. This is one that Father Paul wrote when he was at Seminary.

Mosaic altar screen and Platytera in
Holy Trinity-Saint Nicholas Church
We sang this hymn at my home parish of Holy Trinity-Saint Nicholas only in Greek.  We are very familiar with this hymn and it has so much meaning for us as we are now going not only into parish life in New Zealand, but also into mission work in Fiji. For us, this hymn is filled with comfort: simple fishermen becoming wise; Christ through His Apostles reaching the ends of the earth; that the very Spirit of God is what makes them wise; and in all these lie the perfect motivation for missionary outreach. 

Today, Sunday November 21st, being the feast day of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, we gained a fresh opportunity to contemplate the Panaghia in the light of our experience of preparation and service. This very experience shines light on old familiar stories of real events like in the life of the Panaghia. We gain empathy and direction in ways we never imagined before. We see in the Theotokos that she was eager to do what most people were afraid to do: enter the Holy of Holies.  And now as we prepare to depart our well known homes, I am encouraged by her actions and praise her for her well formed heart which recognized God in the place which He designated as His dwelling place among His chosen people.

Here is what  has as a description of this event in the life if the Virgin Mary

Mosaic Icon of the Presentation of the Theotokos to the Temple in the Monastery of the Holy in Chora. You can read the history of the monastery with beautiful photos here: 

The birth and early life of the Virgin Mary is not recorded in the Gospels or other books of the New Testament, however this information can be found in a work dating from the second century known as the Book of James or Protevangelion.

When Mary was three years old, Joachim and Anna decided that the time had come to fulfill their promise and to offer her to the Lord. Joachim gathered the young girls of the neighborhood to form an escort, and he made them go in front of Mary, carrying torches. Captivated by the torches, the young child followed joyfully to the Temple, not once looking back at her parents nor weeping as she was parted from them.
The holy Virgin ran toward the Temple, overtaking her attendant maidens and threw herself into the arms of the High Priest Zacharias, who was waiting for her at the gate of the Temple with the elders. Zacharias blessed her saying, "It is in you that He has glorified His name in every generation. It is in you that He will reveal the Redemption that He has prepared for His people in the last days."
Then, Zacharias brought the child into the Holy of Holies—a place where only the High Priest was permitted to enter once a year on the Day of Atonement. He placed her on the steps of the altar, and the grace of the Lord descended upon her. She arose and expressed her joy in a dance as wonder seized all who saw this happen.

Father Paul gave a beautiful sermon to the children on this.  He asked them what would make her walk past her parents, to the High Priest, and into the Holy of Holies.  One of the children answered "courage" and another answered "love".  In Father Paul's sermon he let us know that she was more than okay with it because she loved God. She loved God more than her parents. By God's grace, she must have felt at home there.

It gives a whole new perspective on what home can mean. 

For us home has meant family. It has meant the land or the house where we were born and raised. It has meant the land of our fathers too. It has been every parish where Father Paul has served, and every city where those parishes are established. It has been the familiar…hmmmm family…familiar…. And we have had many, many real homes in this country. 

Today the little parish of Saints Constantine and Helen, where Father Paul has been serving became yet another home. They thanked Father Paul for his 3 month ministry. We were able to enjoy them in genuine family style fellowship, and we did so by virtue of the love that God put in our hearts. We thank them for their love and generosity, and for their confidence and interest in the mission. 

New Zealand, despite our not having any generational roots there, holds something familiar to us in our hearts.  It most certainly has something to do with the Archbishop who's love is as boundless as that of a child, like that of the 3 year old Theotokos. We have a special hope in his direction, which is more familiar to us than family.  Hopefully we will be able to share more about that with you at the proper time as we too learn more.  Until then, we can share our experiences and our discoveries one week at a time. 

May it be blessed.

I don't know if I will have time to write in the next week.  A new entry could be posted after we have arrived. We don't know if we will have WiFi or internet access soon after we arrive.  Eventually….

We leave in the wee hours of the morning next Sunday.  Our tickets are here.  Our visas wait to perform their long sought after duties. Our luggage is half way packed.  Our families are gathering for Thanksgiving and for a real farewell.  

And once again I ask for your prayers.

Panaghia be with you all!

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