Sunday, December 12, 2010


My experience is that they come and go.

In the business world first impressions are extremely important, and we all know that love is not the aim. But in the Body of Christ, first impressions can mean nothing more than judgements that must be put aside if we are to embrace the purpose and love of God. Please don't expect us to explore impressions of people in the business way.

As God's children, we are blessed to be living in His created world. I hope to meet each moment as a guest of the Most High God. It is a world that belongs to Him first, and must be shared, because He shares it first, or else the Kingdom is not for us.  And in the Ekkleseia this is all the more true. 

By God's grace we have seen a very healthy demonstration of hospitality towards our family. I know that this will please our friends and family back home. It also pleases our Archbishop who knows the value of hospitality, and has confidence in this assignment

As I think about what I am learning these past two weeks, I would say that it has to do with the importance of the day at hand.

Imagine if you will a day that begs to be noticed.  If a day could have a mind, what might it want to say to us?  When the sun rises, as time elapses, as we meet and greet each other, what might one day have to teach? 

From now on, until who knows when, I will speak to you from the lessons of each day as they seem relevant to more than just myself. Yes this is abstract and it is a bit of an experiment, however, I hope for something practical to emerge. I am curious to see where it may go.

The past two weeks have been filled with gifts and treasures from people from the parish.  Some giving simple gifts from their very hearts.  Some sharing from the bounty of their own gifts from God, with love.  They try to make sure that we are not only comfortable, but also happy and that we will want to get to know them.

We do.  And we do in a big way.

It is touching to see gifts in the hands of the people who bring them, or to come home from an outing and to find something was trusted to our door front. It is nice to see how each and everyone brings something so different, that they feel is of importance. I think of the flowers that the Hellenic Committee brought to us through the president and the secretary.  Gorgeous flowers that have been in water here for two weeks and are only now beginning to fade.  And also the mums that came through yet another parishioner. They are reminders to me of God's way of keeping us, how he preserves us in ways that we cannot imagine or plan.

But there are flowers everywhere and they are so much fun!  Like the blossoms on the lemon tree.  We learned for the first time how fragrant the flower of the lemon tree is when we were at Saint Anthony's monastery in Florence, Arizona.  It is a beautiful memory for our children, and yet it is here now in the garden of our back yard. This is a very special thing for Raphaela personally as she experiences the love of God through the seasons and through the beauty of nature and the growth of the gardens.
The lemon blossom

Our first week also brought to us the planting of our garden that I mentioned in my last post. I know that some of our friends and parishioners from New Mexico will be happy to see it even if it is online. I love certain things about our Greek culture, like how the people  want to know the name of your church. I think that I have mentioned this already too. It is not enough that it is a Greek Orthodox Church to them, but they need to know the saint of the parish, or the special feast day which is comemorated there.  How wonderfully we relate to our history in this way. It happened again today when an Australian lady came to us for the first time, and she asked right away the name of the church even though she had found it, was in the driveway, and was already here talking with me.

It is the same way with Greek people and gardens.  They love to know what you planted there.  We are hoping for a decent crop to feed us in the months to come.  We love tomato salad with bread, and becasue parishioners heard that we were planting, they brought more just in case, so I expect bunches of tomatoes.  This garden is also a great source of joy for us.  I can't explain it, but I can remember vividly how much Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh went to his gardens regularly and worked so hard there to refresh himself daily as often as he prayed, and how he could pray the small compline prayers by heart so effortlessly while he tied tomato plants; this from a man who is an expert in so many areas of Orthodox theological thought, and well known to theologians around the world.

Planting the garden

So in the garden are: my favorite eggplant, tomatoes, yellow peppers, cucumbers, zuchini, strawberries, a pupmpkin, sunflowers. And in this photo are also Raphaela, Georgios, and Mr PG who came and helped us to make the garden a good one.  Although I have to say he is not a great fan of the mulching method we employ, he did support us in laying down the brown stuff for now.
One funny thing is that the garden is right behind the Greek School buillding, and we have had to water it sometimes while classes are going on.  They are very generous about it all, and they tolerate our aqueous interruptions quite well as we hit the window sometimes. I had forgotten that there is a window there, and I would send Georgios to water in the evenings. I hope to figure out the class schedule better so that we can water in between sessions.  He has 3 sessions sometimes back to back on the same day.  And there is Greek school going on throughout the week.

The highlight of our time here so far is the visit from the Archbishop.  First allow me to say that we are blessed to be in the spiritual care of such a patient man. I pray that we will all represent him well and that we will learn everything he has to teach us. May his prayers for us be received.

His most eager message to us is that he appreciates our effort to be here, and that he wants us to be as comfortable as possible in our new home.  He is also very patient to see that we are settled before too many assignments come our way.  I am saying "our" instead of referring to just Father Paul because we all have directives in one way or another.  His Eminence is truly interested in each one of our family members as if we are his very own children. While Father Paul has his assignments for various activities, the children and I will be helping to get some more things going with the Sunday School, and also I should begin a women's catechism in the new year.

The Archbishop was with us for less than 24 hours and he still managed to take a stroll with us downtown, and to make a visit, or two, to parishioners homes and the Kelly Tarlton Aquarium :

Here we are at the waterfront of downtown Auckland. Please don't notice my strange facial expression

The truth is that just being with His Eminence is a lesson in real living.  I am very enthusiastic in sharing our experiences with him.  He told us of a little miracle of Saint Katherine that happened on the her feast day this year regarding the building of an orphanage in Fiji. The Archdiocese was able to purchase the land that previously, just the day before, was not available to anyone. Plus, there was a grant that was given to help build the orphanage, and a second contributor came to him on Nov. 25th to say that she would also like to see a chapel dedicated to Saint Katherine there on the island site of the orphanage as she loves her patron saint so dearly.  So now the orphanage, without having been built yet, is dedicated to both the Holy Trinity, as per another important request, and also to Saint Katherine the Great Martyr. How nice is that?  I can't wait to see it all.

After we toured the waterfront a little and had lunch, we returned home to collect luggage and tickets etc in preparation for his trip to Fiji.  We had to get him to the airport. His Eminence however, in true faithful fashion, very true to the example of his his spiritual father the Elder Amphilochios of Patmos, sat under the olive tree that is large enough to shade the church, to read an article from the Orthodox Observer.  It was an invitation to us all to look at time and events differently. We could spend the time fretting over the time itself, or we could spend the little free time we had enjoying the gift of life, the gift of that tree, the gift of the day.
With His Eminence in front of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Auckland
These things are much more valuable and much  more memorable than fretting over schedules anyway.

Today Father Paul gave one of his lovliest sermons about the parable of the wedding feast.  He quoted Saint Ambrosios in his interpretation of life in Christ as it should be, as it can be, when man looks up towards God for life and inspiration rather than looking to the earth (the one who bought land)  or relying only on our senses ( as the one man who bought the oxen which represent our senses) or in being self satisfied (as the man who already had a wife and didn't need to go to the banquet). The Earth, our senses, being self satisfied.  All of these have ways of informing us away from the Lord.  But if we simply accept His invitations, we can have the spouse, our senses and the earth and the fullness thereof without alienating ourselves from God.

I know that for this family, it is vital that we look to the Lord for our livelihood.  May He grant us the strength to see it through in every way that He intends.  With your prayers, we will continue well. 

PS I hope the photos scome through

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