Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year... Coming through...!

Newness, beginnings, hope, the freedom to reframe,  the setting of goals,  the course towards the future.  Universally we all mark the beginning of the new calendar year and there is not a continent on this planet where it is not honored in some form.  The cycles of life beckon us to look back as we look forward. We set bookmarks in our thoughts so that we can remember what was once new, fresh and hopeful, and know that we have changed, or hope to reach beyond what we were before.

 As individuals, I wonder, do we think that the New Year is coming, or that we arrive at a new year?   I happen to think that some of us sort of personify the holidays and so we see them as coming to us, and others see ourselves as travelers through a calendar of events systematically arriving at each one.  This can be understood of course in the way we talk about our time and events.  So often I have heard spiritual fathers talk about the life to come as a destination that we reach after a long, or short journey of this life on the path of time.  So often we hear people say "time waits for no man", as if we are chasing something. Other times we plan so diligently for things, that the event we longed for seemed to elude us although it was with us all along.

My favorite perspective these days is the one in a song by the Avett Brothers.

 Forever I will move like the world that turns beneath me and when I lose my direction I'll look up to the sky, and when the black cloak drags upon the ground I'll be ready to surrender and remember, we're all in this together... if I live the life I'm given, I won't be scared to die"   

Finding a synchrony with the things we journey to, and the things that come, prepares us for the inevitable.  The events that pass us by are important, but so is the way that we move within and around them.  The thing that caught me by surprise in these lyrics is the line "we're all in this together", which is something I would not expect an American, born of rugged individualism would portray. It is a uniquely Orthodox Christian sentiment long before this song was "born".  The writer is talking about being actively in the moment of life in a way that also states: to be in the present is to be together.

Orthodox Theologians call this The Eternal Now.

Our Christmas holiday had sadness this year with the proclamation by the hymns of our Church, ...

"Your Nativity O Christ our God, has shown the light of knowledge unto all the world, for those who worshiped the stars, learned by a star to worship You the Sun of Righteousness, and to adorn you as the Dayspring from on High, O Lord glory to You"

... Mourning and the acute awareness of the suffering of others rippled around the world.  From the Election stress (you may have seen the video of the little girl who was crying and so tired of "Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney") to the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, to tragic events in the Middle East, to Cyclone Evan, which has devastated both Fiji and Samoa,  a dear friend has cancer, and our best friend's Dad died just that Christmas morning. Variations of pain and loss echoed.

The most gripping emotions of fear, and sadness have throughout the ages motivated many hearts.   It seems every crisis in this world, as we become aware of it, is born in our hearts, and every pain of the heart eventually bears its fruit in the world around us. All the more to look for and find Christ there, whether he is welcomed as a babe or as the gardener of our hearts, or as the one who stands at the door and knocks.

The Cyclone in Fiji miraculously left little damage compared to Samoa. No casualties.   20 schools were demolished.  The construction of the Greek Orthodox school/orphanage, His Eminence tells us, is okay and not in danger at this point in time.

 Our mission team was exhausted. The Archbishop was there about two weeks ago still, and in his kind way says that the cyclone made a great impression on him, and at the same time, he does not not forget for a moment those who have suffered more.  The mission house had been without electricity for nearly 3 weeks.  We felt pretty much in the dark as to how they were doing, except for that we know from experience, Archbishop Amfilochios, knowing he is very much human, is undeniably relying on heavenly strength to lead his people during troubled times.  Please pray when you remember them.

The Skinny Little Greek Tea

Since my last post we have been more active than usual.  We had a fund raiser for the building project in Fiji to build a school and orphanage.  The event was an afternoon tea. We called it our Skinny Little Greek Tea.  Everyone agreed that it was a nice departure from the "Big Fat" we have been hearing about for so long Just 60 people in attendance and we were able to give the mission $3000.00. It was a gorgeous venue, the home of one of our parishioners, and we gathered a few members for our first philoptochos.

We had a silent auction, and raffle there  with His Eminence's permission.  Along with tea and coffee we had lovely sweets and savories.  One of my funny's is the Fijian/Asian Fusion dish that I made up.  I kept acting like we had to have it on the menu. It made me laugh: Kokonda Spring Rolls.  The Fijians eat a raw fish cured in lime juice and coconut milk they call Kokonda. Seasoned with cilantro and served cold, we wrapped them in rice paper. That was tricky because I had never done it before. It got great reviews.

We were able to make a slide show from our recent trip to Fiji, so that those donating could see the plans for the buildings there.  We are quite fortunate to have been there before, because if we get to go after the building we will be able to appreciate the beauty of that construction.

 We could barely believe it ourselves how lovely the weather was on that day. Sun hats everywhere! It had felt like a true summer day, surrounded by rain for the entire week before and the week after, the warmth of the day and the beauty of the sun was a great conduit for the message of love that Father Paul gave to those who would volunteer.  "Give as Love tells you to."  making sure that no one felt obligated to give more than what they had spent on their ticket to be there. All the items in the silent auction sold at a good price and so success was handed to us by Providence.

Father Paul began a radio program to help our faithful and those who may be interested in learning about Greek Orthodoxy.  He calls it In the Narthex.  It can be heard in Auckland on Friday afternoons at 3:15 pm and throughout the week online at The title above is actually a link.

In the 30 minute show we have any of the following: news, lives of saints, Gospel lessons, and music from songwriters that may well express an Orthodox mindset.  We always look for Byzanatine chant or traditional Church Music, or it may be from an Orthodox Christian Artist.  I help work the controls which is a great experience if you can get it.

You can also find us on Facebook "In the Narthex with Father Paul"


We will be reinstating the blessing of the waters and the race for the cross this year on January 19th.  It seems late I know, but two of the 5 canonical Orthodox jurisdictions here in NZ are on the old calendar, and we wanted to wait so that we could all do the blessing together.  Of course we had the liturgy and the blessing of Holy Water on Jan 6th as is our tradition, and we had a beautiful crowd that day and a 40-day blessing.

We took a trip to Christchurch in November, and had some precious time with His Eminence and Father Amfilochios and Presvytera Anastasia. Father, Presvytera and family also came to spend some time with us here in Auckland.

Sometimes Our Archbishop gives us a little somethings to do just to refresh us.  He knows that as westerners (aka Americans), we don't really take time to rest in between tasks. This is something that he teaches from his example.  I feel like it is my job to watch and learn.  He not only maintains a great rhythm  of work - rest - prayer , he also has the beautiful love for prayer and for being with the image of God in us.  While he does have his personal time with the Lord everyday, however, unlike anyone else I have known, he also shares some of that with us. It is a very, very generous gesture. ***** It seems that nothing can get in the way of his love for God and his deep desire to remember to invite the Lord to be with us. He knows that our Lord is humble and that He responds so nicely to invitations.

This taking time to stop the mind's antics and commune in the heart with others, with the Lord, with nature, this blessing is a refreshment that requires no calendar with pages that need turning, no clock to mark its end. It is the natural and simple action of one inspired by the One Who is great in love.  The phrase take time to smell the roses is a little less than what our Eminence's example shows us.  It is not the time we take, but the attention that we give to others, to God, to the essence of living authentically enough that we too may not be afraid of that same clock when it stops for us.  Because in the moments that we truly live, whether in comfort or in suffering, we also are in the presence of God, and where God is, so is His mercy, His love, and His creation.

Georgios is in the middle of his summer holiday.   Our daughters have gone to Greece for the winter. (Kiwi summer) and thoughts of them are in the forefront of our minds no matter where we are or what we do. We eagerly await their arrival.  We have missed them so much.  They have been gone for about 8 weeks now.

If you get a chance to listen to the radio show, feel free to give us some feedback either here or on the FB page.

Wishing you a beautiful year, whether you are moving though it or it is running past, it is a gift from God. It is all good!  Happy New Year. 

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