Sunday, April 8, 2012

Roots and Seeds... Evangelismos and Holy Week

Meeting people is one of the best things I get to do here in Auckland.  

I think that it is the better way to put roots down in a  new place. ... you know relationships and the joys and adventure and even sorrows that they bring.   New Zealand is beautiful, having seen so much of it so far that is, but if the people also were not interesting and good natured, I think that I would not be enjoying myself. 

Raphael and Yianni: the smallest dance
troop in the Southern Hemisphere
It takes time to really meet people here. It seems as if we have to prove that we are staying for more than 2 years before we can make the kind of impression that engenders friendship. Once made, these friendships have been real gems. Some friendships require patience like that of the gardener.  They wait for weather, inspiration and results. Kiwi's like to bloom slowly.

Making Loukoumathes the way they are
supposed to be made, with love and
Greek pride.
It is like a respected custom  not to impose. Nevertheless, we found a way to get our Kiwi neighbors to come see us. The Hellenic Community of Auckland had our first Greek Festival here at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of New Zealand. Now our friends in the USA will really wonder about this.. it on a Saturday, and it lasted for a whole 5 hours!  What can I say? It was a very good effort and event! 

Selling icons in the Church Foyer
 Father Paul receiving visitors
Kiwi’s have their roots in the English and the Maori cultures for the most part.  Now, when I think of how Prince Charles is a frequent visitor to Mount Athos, or how the Maori touch and kiss their deceased like we do, suddenly I want to make a new distinction. When we talk about our Greek roots what do we mean?  For me the Greek Culture is a treasure chest of tradition that gives my life meaning and at the apex of it all is the Church.  It is a culture whose roots & seeds may not look like the modern plant on first glance, just as I was surprised years ago to learn that the coriander seed was a part of the cilantro plant (but they smell so different- insert a whiney tone-). Here in NZ, the whole plant is called coriander.  See what I mean?  Sometimes we are thinking of the same things but we are calling them by different names. Well I do think our Kiwi neighbors felt at home at our Greek Festival.  That alone was unexpected and nice.

The costumes came out again for Evangelismos Vespers
on Greek Independence Day
This year the Feast of the Annunciation was a time for feeling those really old Greek roots... and for planting seeds. with Great Vespers and with the dinner afterward.  The celebration in our hearts, especially for those who came to the prayer, was over-flowing with love and appreciation for the Lord's mother, the history of the Greeks who fought for independence who were fueled by a tradition of faith.  Our parishioners with real zeal insisted that the ones who were to dance in costume also stand reverently near the feast day icon, planting images for future generations.   It brought a special and unique attention to the feast.  Anyone who knows a little Greek history must be able to see plainly how much Greece depends on the Panaghia. Surely, this is the day to bring them both together in our prayers.

Father Paul plants seeds by letting the kids get really close to the action 

Taking the right steps is a good thing when planting seeds of tradition

It requires support, synergy, and genuine effort

Sometimes we get it wrong even with the best of intentions.  This year we planted cantaloupe too near to the cucumber.  I don't know enough about gardening to  know what happened for sure, but I think that they cross pollenated, and instead we got a cantaloupe that smelled familiar but tasted like a cucumber.  We didn't know whether to put it in a salad with vinaigrette or to eat it with our tea after dinner.  The fruit was not harmonious with its root, with its history.  In light of all that we do for the feast of the Annunciation, this little cucumlope spoke volumes to me about the rich traditions we have, how some things mix with them and some things don't.                  The question came to my mind: what good is it to have the gift of strong roots and then cultivate seeds that do not agree with the roots that were intended to nourish us?  

In Fiji the Islanders understand that Greek culture is the treasure chest of Holy Tradition, that it is not materialistic because their Fijian culture is imbued with faith. They want to learn more about it, both the language and the traditions. There are ingredients there that the Fijians see which are timeless and essential, full of meaning, related to Holy Scripture that we have taken for granted as just Greek. 

Father George observing the details carefully

The Fathers of the Church caution us from investing in things that are temporal and encourage us to acquire the Spirit of God.  I don't mean keeping out the new. I think that they want us to choose what is harmonious if we are to grow well. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit."      John 3:6

The Greek Word is Παρακαταθηκη
We hand down that which was given to us.

Another lesson: when I went to pluck the coriander seeds from my coriander plant, it was so plain to see how many hundreds of seeds.. potential plants were there, in my hand!  I felt touched as if by heaven as I gently tweaked the little botanic progeny ...touched with how generous God made the earth and how from one plant so many can be made. How they need to be treasured! They need to be used in a timely and proper fashion, if they are ever going to become the blessing they were intended to be.  This loveliest of insights infused with the beginnings of sunset at my herb garden brought me once again to my roots, and what I need to be hearing from them. What do my roots bring to me for nourishment?  How do I then harvest and bed out and re-harvest from there? 

I decided to dote on the seeds and re-plant them as soon as possible.  I placed them in an open container near the window so that they could dry out. Then from the opposite end of the house, a wind blew and knocked the precious seeds out the window and they were lost. Oops. You never know from where a problem can arise I suppose. I thought of the lost potential. Yes, I valued them, however, by not doing the right things with them, I didn't get to see them grow properly.

Great Lent, Holy Week, Parishes, and gardening in the heart.

Great Lent and Holy Week are the pinnacle of cultivation.  Not only do they steer me properly to my roots, but the prayers and services are the treasure chest that keeps the seeds which are cultivated through repentance and more prayer.

For me Holy Week is one of those times when we plant some very important seeds, and even more so when we take our children to church for these services. They are such fertile ground for this kind of growth! The yield is great over time, and then again there are no guarantees, no contracts... only the promise of a loving God, and His Resurrection...  (only?)

Speaking of Roots...

Father Paul's Dad was with us for a whole 6 weeks from the beginning of February to the middle of March.  He came on February 6th, on a holiday here called Waitangi Day, and the kids didn't have school.  It was so nice that we could all go to see him together when he arrived.  After about 3 weeks we asked him to stay a little longer and he agreed. It was the right thing to do.  Those extra two weeks were even more special than the first 4.   He is home now and his phone calls are extra special because he has seen where we live.

I wished that I could have taken him to more places, but we got to see the beach twice and we went to a few restaurants.  The nicest thing about having him here is that we could treat him like a gift to us. It was the first time that we ever had a visit with him without Mom. How different it was, and at the same time how much we appreciated not only his loss but our own and our love for them as a couple. 


Out of the blue, I got an email from a woman who I knew from the States.  She said her sister was in NZ and that she was injured while mountain climbing.  She asked if we could see her.  I was excited just knowing that she is from the States so I said sure!!  I'm so glad that I did. She really brightened our week.

Her name is Pamela and she was awarded a special honor by Archbishop Demetrios and Leadership 100 because she had summited Mount Everest.  She is an amazing athlete, and a person who is comforted by spiritual knowledge and understanding.  She attended Great Compline with us, and we had dinner together too and we got to talk about things that she has does that we may never in our lives do, but you never know. 

May the visitors never cease!  

We also had a visit from a member of Leadership 100 who wanted to talk of almost nothing but her faith experiences.  I don't have a photo of her, but she was a real boost in these latter days of Great Lent. Maria if you are reading, thanks for taking the time to see us.

ON THE MISSON FRONT... the front came to us!!!

Happy to be hosting this beautiful Family from Fiji
Father Geroge, Presvytera Sussana and daughter
   We were surprised by a phone call saying that His Eminence was on his way back from Fiji, and that Father George, one of the newly ordained priests, and his family would be coming to visit.  It felt like such a historical event because it was their first time to New Zealand and we would have the blessing of greeting them.  

It was a very short visit, but very meaningful.  Father George was serving as a pastor in another Christian denomination.   He and his wife have a beautiful life story, and in the few hours that they stayed with us on their lay-over to Wellington, they shared much of their hopes for the growth of the Greek Orthodox Church in Fiji. They later went to Wellington where Father George is learning everything he can about Liturgics Tradition and his Elder.  There was also an ordination of the now Father Konstantinos who is from Greece.  He will serve here in NZ and in Fiji.  I will post photos of him in my next BLOG.

Until then, Kali Anastasi.  Blessed Resurrection to us all!  Please keep us in your prayers.  We thank the Lord for all of you and your moral and financial support. 

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