Trinity 8 – 11th August 2019 – Treasure Trail

Deacon Christine Saccali – St Paul’s Athens


I speak in the name of the Triune God Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is often remarked that living in Greece is learning to live with the unpredictable and certainly over my 40, yes four zero years, here I have found that to be true and am still finding it. Take the earthquake, or heartquake as an Italian fellow deacon called it endearingly by mistake, which we lived through in Athens last month and which to some of us brought back memories of 1999 or 1981 here in Athens. It suddenly jolts the heart just as the heart stopping fires last year did.

Earthquakes are notoriously difficult to predict even though we know we live in a seismic country, there is an app to record the latest global shocks but nothing to foretell them. We put it to the back of our minds until another tremor shocks us. It is good to be aware and take precautions in case of fire, winds or quakes but we cannot live in constant expectation of them not carrying out our normal lives. This can be applied to living with political upheaval. War,  knife or gun crime or terrorism as well.



Trinity 6 – 28th July 2019 (Luke 11, 1-13)

Canon Leonard Doolan, St. Paul’s Athens.


On the top of the Mount of Olives Empress St. Helena built one of her basilica churches when she visited Jerusalem in the 320’s AD. With her son being the Emperor Constantine she had some real cash and clout behind her. She was a faithful woman, and wished to see the places where the most important and holy things happened in the life of our Lord. Jerusalem at the time was a bit of a slum, so with the arrival of the Dowager Empress, Jerusalem went through one of the largest real estate developments it had seen in centuries.

This basilica, one of several built by St. Helena, was visited by a pilgrim called Egeria in the AD380’s. The journal of her pilgrimage is still in existence, and she records the liturgical events in the holy city. The great doctor of the church, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, was the bishop at the time.

Her journal describes what is done on Holy Thursday, during the Great Week, or Holy Week as we call it. On a busy liturgical day she gives us this information:

‘… after they have all eaten, all go to the Eleona to the church wherein is the cave where the Lord was with his Apostles on this very day. There, then until about the fifth hour of the night, hymns and antiphons suitable to the day and the place are said, lessons too, are read in like manner, with prayers interspersed, and the passages from the gospel are read where the Lord addressed his disciples on that same day as he sat in the same cave which is in that church’.



4th Sunday of Trinity – 14th July 2019.

Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan – St. Paul’s  Athens


Over quite a long ministry – on July 2nd I have been ordained 36 years – there have been some memorable experiences. One that is worthy of note was when we had invited a Messianic Jew to preach in Cirencester Parish Church. At the end of his sermon he sang the words of the ‘shema’ in Hebrew. Jesus says these same words in our gospel this morning.

‘ Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself’. I will never forget that moment as we heard the words sung plaintively in ancient musical modulations.

Also throughout the time I have been ordained, some of the most exciting and moving times have been when the Christian faith has grown visibly in the life of a person – often with life changing consequences. Such change illustrates the words of the ‘shema’ in real life and with real people,  making a real difference. Loving God and loving neighbour is not a slogan, nor a theory; it is the glory of God active in a human life. As St. Ireneaus famously said, ‘the glory of God is man fully alive’. Love God and love neighbour.



Third Sunday after Trinity 7th July 2019

Sermon preached at St. Paul’s Athens by the Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan.


There is a well-known idiom, ‘you reap what you sow’. It will be known by almost everyone, but not everyone knows that it comes from the pen of St. Paul. Not only is it important to Paul, he even mentions that he has written it in his own hand – and that it is in large letters! It is thought that St. Paul had some type of eye sight problems, so his hand writing would betray this.

A slight digression! Part of our holiday was on the island of Syros. In Hermoupoli we visited the Church of the Dormition; a rather fine church. One of the elderly priests happened to be greeting visitors and he pointed us to a picture on the wall of the narthex. Many of the icons and church furnishings in this church were brought by people expelled from Pontus, and each Greek tried to bring something with them from their churches. Some of the icons were sent to for inspection to Athens to be examined by experts.

One of the icons was, not surprisingly, of the Dormition of the Panaghia. Some cleaning work was done, and something rather remarkable was discovered. The icon was signed. The signature was that of Dominikos Theotokopoulos an artist from Crete who went to live and work in Spain, and is better known to us as El Greco. His art is notable for the elongated and sometimes distorted human figures, possibly caused by a stigma, a fault in his sight.


So, the ‘boss eyed’ St. Paul writes in large letters with his own hand, ‘you reap what you sow.’ It is a firm lesson for life, and certainly a firm lesson for the life of the church and church members – it is a lesson in gospel sharing and what we call evangelization. You reap what you sow. If a church sows sparsely it will reap sparsely, if a church sows generously it will reap generously.


Chris Preaching  Crete  feature

Sermon at the Ordination of Julia Bradshaw to the Diaconate, Sunday 30th June 20

Deacon Christine Saccali, Anglican Parish of St. Thomas, Kefalas, Apokoronas, Crete, Greece.

1 Samuel 3.1-10, Psalm 119.1-6, Acts 6.1-7, and Matthew 25.31-46.


Spring Cleaning and the Ordination of Deacons


I speak in the name of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is an enormous pleasure, privilege and a time bursting with pride to be present with you all here today and to be invited to preach at the ordination of Julia to the Distinctive Diaconate. Indeed it is such a day of joy and jubilation due to the fact that I feel as if my ministry and that of St Thomas here in Kefalas has been intertwined along with that of Julia’s path. Also, Registrar, folks gathered here – this could also be a historic occasion in the Diocese in Europe since we have three distinctive deacons present – Deacon Frances, myself, and Julia to be ordained today.


Forgive me if I introduce myself to those whom I don’t already know and I hope to chat with you all later over refreshments. Next month is my fortieth anniversary of being in Greece. I am married to a Greek and we have one married son and a granddaughter.I was present at Frances’ ordination in Cologne just over 10 years ago [Frances Hillier is the Suffragan Bishop’s Chaplain and Personal Assistant, and was present at the ordination, serving as the deacon of the mass]. I was ordained in St Paul’s Athens three years ago on the feast of St Thomas 3rd July, the patronal festival of this church, by Bishop David; Julia was there to support me and Frances preached a sermon that I remember well all about the calling of a deacon, based on scripture. As a Reader and active in ministry I was present during a consultation in Pendeli monastery in the mid noughties when Tony Lane stood up and said “I will build a church” – this very church, and the then Archdeacon of the East was rather taken aback, I seem to remember. Here we are today in that church – your church, St Thomas. Tony your vision was mighty and we thank you for that, dear friends, and wish you and Suzanne all the best in the UK.


Chris Preaching Crete .1











Feast of St Peter & St Paul 30th June 2019

Licensed Reader Mrs Sherry Angelis


He is bold, brash, forward, opinionated, impulsive, assertive, warm, kind, helpful, caring and one who often speaks out and acts without sufficient  thought.  Naturally, he loves to be the centre of attention and is always the life of the party.  Inside himself, though, there lives a small boy with a heart of gold who can be insecure and frightened.


Shimon Bar-Jonah is born around year one of our Lord, in Bethsaida – meaning house of fishing in Hebrew.  It is a beautiful city on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee where the River Jordan enters.  Shimon, or Simon in English, grows up in the usual way in that troubled part of the world at such an extremely difficult time.  He goes into the family fishing business with his brother Andrew.  He marries and probably has children.  So, for close to 30 years, life is as he expected it to be – very hard but quite simple.


Of course, unforgettable is the first meeting of Jesus of Nazareth with Simon.  Apparently, Andrew is already a believer in the words of John the Baptist and might have spoken endlessly to his brother about the New Prophet.  Thus, when Jesus shows up on the shoreline and tells these two seasoned fishermen, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men,”  they do so immediately.

Undoubtedly, fishermen hold a special place in the Lord’s heart.  And, you may well recall that, within Christ’s elite group of 12 disciples, it is 3 fishermen, one of whom is Simon, who are with Him at some very pivotal moments in His life, such as Jesus’ Transfiguration and His last night in Gethsemane.


It just so happens that, within this particular rough and rugged fisherman, Jesus recognises qualities needed for His own band of disciples.  You might say that Simon is chosen for who he is and in spite of it.


Simon begins like the others, as a follower and learner of Jesus with all of the entire renunciation of home, family, and other callings which this implies.  His knowledge and faith for the present need only the call of personal attachment to the Master.



Trinity Sunday (June 16th) 2019

Fr James Harris


‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.’


Would that more preachers would heed these words, especially on a day like this – this Trinity Sunday on which we celebrate and explore the mystery that is God, Father Son and Holy Spirit.

 Trinity Sunday – the culmination of a story that began last Advent and which will lead us back there again in due course. The Christ we anticipated then is now returned, risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, where he ever intercedes for us, and from where the Spirit overflows into a thirsty and broken world.

 This is the essence of the life of the God we worship: life-giving, mutually interdependent, engaged with his creation, listening, responding, loving.

I had a friend at theological college, called William, who lived for this season of the Church’s year, which we call Ordinary Time. The green season. It’s been a while since we last saw green. Before Lent, in fact and then, because of the vagaries of the calendar, only for a few short weeks after Epiphany.

We used to tease him but William was unmoved: he loved the sea of green which stretched almost unbroken through the Sundays after Trinity, all the way through to All Saints All Souls, Advent again.

 He used to explain how he loved the ordinariness of life lived without big festivals and dramatic events, life lived in the daily overflow of the divine energy into the world. An extraordinary ordinariness. Divine wisdom and spirit engaging with the world by the wayside, at the crossroads, at the town gate – as our OT reading reminds us.

 Humble, earthly, mortal life grounded in the soil of this bit of rock we call home, and yet life charged with the presence of God, hallowed by his footsteps, the promise of restoration hanging in the air, the soundtrack of Heaven playing on repeat in the background: holy, holy, holy.

 Timeless ordinariness, which was and is and is to come.

 Timeless extraordinary ordinariness.

You need a particular perspective, you need to be particularly observant, to notice that sort of simple ordinariness, because it’s so unexpected, so counter intuitive and altogether different from the extraordinary, complex tangle we’ve made of the world; the things we have decided are life-giving, or exciting, or divine.


One poet, Wallace Stevens, puts it this way.


Rationalists, wearing square hats,

Think, in square rooms,

Looking at the door,

Looking at the ceiling.

They confine themselves

To right-angled triangles.

If they tried rhomboids,

Cones, waving lines, ellipses –

As, for example, the ellipse of the half moon –

Rationalists would wear sombreros.


As humans we’re constantly trying to draw in rational, manageable squares when God creates in circles, or ellipses, or waving lines – shapes which are perfectly recognisable and intelligible, yes, but which stubbornly refuse to accommodate themselves into the square holes we would like to engineer.

The misterion – the icon – of the Trinity is just such an unsquareable circle. It is real, don’t get me wrong. I have no truck with those who suggest it’s just a metaphorical device, or that the depths of its mystery cannot be plumbed or explored.

Rather, in its reality, the mystery of the Holy Trinity is truly sacramental; in other words, it contains in recognisable, visible forms (parental and filial relationships, loving embraces, circular dances, waves of energy) an invisible, intangible, spiritual truth – and that truth is that God, even God, is intimately connected with the creation he has made in his image, through his Son who came and went about among us, through their Spirit who joins with them in the life-giving work of re-creation, restoration, redemption.

Dante, in Paradiso, the final part of his epic trilogy, describes a heavenly vision thus (in a translation by Alison Morgan):

In those depths I saw,

Bound with threads of love into a single volume,

Everything that is scattered through the universe;

Substances, accidents, flowing together

Into something like a simple light.


In the deep, clear substance of this light

I saw three arches, each of three colours,

One reflected from another like rainbow from rainbow

And the third seemed like fire, breathed from the other two.


And in the centre of this light, painted in its colours

I saw the image of our own human form.

I saw the mathematician struggling to reconcile

Square and circle, and failing to find the formula;

I wanted to define the image within the circle

Yet finding my mind, flightless, struck suddenly

By a flash of light and grace.


I fainted, overcome

But my mind and my heart were left turning

Like wheels in constant, even motion,

Powered by the love which moves the sun and other stars.

Circles, not squares. Rainbows in darkness. Humanity reflected in God. Trying and failing. Overcome but inspired by light and grace.

 Ultimately, the truth of God the Holy Trinity is not a mystery to be explained but a reality to be lived. Every day in every circumstance, however ordinary.

 Because God’s life is ordinary for us his children: the normative, ordered, sustainable way in which humanity will flourish and find its true self.

 Ordinary life has been lived out in this place for close to 200 years now, as people have celebrated birth, fused families, committed souls to rest, joined in the worship of Heaven. Acknowledged the extraordinary ordinariness of God in the fruitfulness of the land and the changing of the seasons, the very passage of life.


Today, let us don a sombrero and rejoice in the privilege and the richness of a life lived in the extraordinary reality of God.





Ascension Sunday and visit of Rowan Williams to St Paul’s Anglican Church Athens

Fr L W Doolan


They say ‘lightning doesn’t strike twice’. Open for debate, I think.  A few years ago I had the privilege of preaching at St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral in the centre of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.  The preacher the Sunday before my preaching engagement was none other than one Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. Follow that.

Well I find that I am in the same situation again. Bishop Rowan Williams preached here last Sunday, so I find myself in a somewhat unenviable situation again. ‘Lightning doesn’t strike twice’.  If I put a positive spin on this, I could be grateful to Rowan Williams as my ‘warm up’ guy.

Bishop Rowan was with us in Athens for 5 days, and we had a varied programme, a programme devised by me to exploit the world-wide prestige of this man, and the esteem with which he is held by the Orthodox Church here in Greece.


The consequences of this highly significant visit will emerge over the months and even years ahead, and I believe some excellent seeds were sown that will mature into good fruits.


It was my privilege to be in attendance throughout, and I wanted to take some time to share with you all the ingredients of the visit. There will be sequels to this historic encounter. Throughout it was the crucified, risen ascended and glorified Christ who was at the centre of the visit.


So we turn our attention now to today’s celebration of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven.



Easter 2 2019

Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan in St Paul’s Athens


Being Easter Christians means not standing still. Any serious reading of the resurrection narratives in the gospels shows that we are to be people on the move – on the move for our risen Lord.

The last few chapters of each gospel are full of movement, of journeys, of personal change and development. ‘Go into Galilee’, ‘Go into all the nations and baptize’, ‘While they were walking to a place called Emmaus’, ‘Peace be with you, as the Father sent me, so I am sending you’, all of these imply a physical movement, travelling with the risen Christ and in the power of the risen Christ.

The journey can also be a journey in and of faith – an interior journey. ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe’.  Jesus said to Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands’. ‘Thomas answered him “My Lord and my God’.

Thomas makes a personal journey of faith a journey of doubt to belief.


St. John’s gospel begins with the Word of God being en-fleshed, of being incarnate, and the association is immediately that this Word made flesh is Jesus of Nazareth. St. John, through his gospel account, presents Jesus as the one who is sent by God, who performs signs and wonders, who says, ‘I am the way, the truth, the life’, ‘I am the bread of life’, ‘I am the vine’, I am the Good Shepherd’ and so on. In his final chapters St. John’s intentions are crystallized in the words of St. Thomas.

This is the highest point of St. John’s gospel. Not only is Jesus Lord – he is God!


There is a strong tendency towards Thomas’s doubt in all of us. The slightest small incident, or even a great tragedy can throw us off course. It might be as simple as a word mis-placed by someone else in the Christian household, or it might be a catastrophic tragedy like the pointless innocent deaths in Sri Lanka.

If I am to be certain about my belief in God how can I find my way through these terrible things, performed by twisted and distorted humans  in God’s name.

St. Thomas’s journey is not always an easy journey, it is not always a straight road into deeper faith. Without the evidence that was shown to Thomas we have to take a step of faith. The risen Lord prepares us for this. ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’.

We believe without the certainty presented to Thomas and the first disciples. Yet we will do well to reflect on the words of a former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, who said this: the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.


So we journey on in faithful hope and hopeful faith in the life of the resurrection. It will always be challenging. ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side’. The risen Lord brought his wounds of crucifixion with him when walked from the tomb. He did not leave the marks of cruelty and injustice, pain and heartache behind him. Easter Christians don’t believe in a Lord who was never crucified. The Easter faith is about the mystery of the cross.

We may not be able to put our finger into the wounds, or see his hands ripped apart by nails, but when we put our hands forward to receive our Holy Communion, we are receiving the bread of the wounded Christ, and the cup of the wounded Christ, and as we receive with outstretched hands the sacraments of our Lord we receive in communion with our sisters and brothers, wounded and dead in Sri Lanka, and with all the martyrs and faithful down through the Christian epochs.




These last weeks have been a bit nostalgic for me.  I have stepped down from my role as Archdeacon within the Diocese in Europe.  At various points I’ve been asked what are the things I most remember about my time as Archdeacon here.  And each time I’ve been asked that I’ve looked back to a March Tuesday in 2016 when I headed from Frankfurt where I live to Brussels for the day.


I set out on the train from Frankfurt at around 6.30.  It was 9.40 on Tuesday morning when I first realised something was wrong.  I had got up early that morning to catch the 6.30 train from Frankfurt to Brussels.  I had been invited  to preach at the service which was takes place during Holy Week every year  at the Church of England’s cathedral in Brussels .  It’s a service  at which clergy renew their ordination promises and Holy Oils are blessed. Clergy and laity were coming from all over Northern Europe to be part of the service.

Before I set out , I had updated the status on my FB page to say that I was on my way to Brussels to preach the sermon at this service.  At 9.40 I checked FB on my Smartphone to see if there were any updates.  Someone had commented on my status that I was going to preach in Brussels to say that he was praying for the people of Brussels. Cheeky so and so I thought – praying for the people on whom I was going to inflict my sermon. But then I realised that there might be more to this than met the eye.  So I logged on to the BBC news site.  – where news was emerging of explosions at Brussels Airport – and it was already clear that my day in Brussels was going to look rather different than I had imagined.


I arrived at Brussels Midi station and took the decision that I would be best setting out on foot rather than getting on to the Metro as I normally did.  As well I did.   Because in fact, unknown to me, just as I was making that decision a bomb went off further along the Metro.  And so as I walked from the station to the Cathedral, the city began to close around me.  Entrances to the Metro were taped off.  The streets became increasingly empty of traffic.  Shops closed down.

As I arrived at the Cathedral messages were coming through to say that those coming from Helsinki, Copenhagen, London were being turned back. And the thought did go through our mind too that on a day of terrorist action it wasn’t inconceivable that the terrorist might have their eyes too on an English pro-Cathedral.