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Epiphany 2019

Canon L W Doolan   St. Paul’s Athens

 

It is St. Matthew alone who records the journey of the Magi to the city of Bethlehem, and to the very stable where Jesus lay.

We refer to this as the Epiphany. This we generally translate as ‘manifestation’ or in more contemporary language ‘revelation.’ I don’t need to tell most of you here that comes from the verb phanerono. Most of the ladies here will know what a diaphanous frock is, and cling film is a diaphanis membrana. This sounds so much better than cling-film!

In terms of today’s feast, through the arrival of the Magi to the stable in Bethlehem, we are celebrating the revelation of the glory of God in Jesus to the non-Hebrew speaking world, that is, to the gentiles. St. Matthew is making it clear that the birth of Jesus has an impact on Jew and Gentile alike – it is a universal event, a truly catholic revelation of God to his entire creation.

This Epiphany has been the subject of much interest, in situations like quizzes. For example, ‘name the three wise men’. We all know that traditionally they are called Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.

How many Wise Men were there? We all know the Quiz answer is that we don’t know, as St. Matthew mentions only three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh, without revealing the number of Wise Men who brought the gifts.

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Feast of the Holy Innocents 28th December 2018. St Paul’s Athens

Rev Canon L W Doolan

 

Most of the details surrounding the birth of Jesus come from St. Luke’s gospel. However Matthew gives some additional material such as the visit of the Magi to the Christ-child; the Flight into Egypt, a much ignored little piece of information but of course the subject of much icon interest and not surprisingly of great importance to Coptic Christians in Egypt; and the story that we recount today – namely the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents.

Herod the Great was a wily man, and a brittle ruler – he felt vulnerable under the Roman authorities, and was jealous of his own powers. He seeks to trick the Wise Men into telling him where they find the child Messiah. They are wise before the event and being warned in a dream, the place of so much human wisdom, they return back to their mysterious homes by a different route.

Also by a dream, and not for the first time, Joseph leads his wife and child to Egypt for safety. They remained there until this crafty fox  Herod had died.

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Feast of St. Stephen 26th Dec 2018 St. Paul’s Athens.

Rev. Canon L W Doolan

 

Today is the Feast of Stephen, well known even in one of our Christmas carols, Good king Wenceslaus.

We make today a very big metal and spiritual jump. Within 24hours we have gone from celebrating the birth of the Saviour to a saint who died for his faith. On the one hand the Redeemer is born, then suddenly the cost of discipleship.

In the Orthodox calendar today is kept as a Synaxis of the Holy Mother of God. For us there is a synaxis between Jesus and suffering – we point almost straight away towards Good Friday and martyrdom. Appropriately, of course, the Mother of God is no stranger to the maternal suffering of seeing her son on a cross.

Stephen’s death is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, and so he is considered the proto-martyr of the Christian church – the first person recorded who died for his faith in the crucified and risen Lord. His death is also notable because it is none other than Saul, St. Paul, who oversees the stoning of Stephen – maybe this experience was a contributory factor in changing Paul’s mind and heart to open up towards receiving Jesus into his life.

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Midnight Mass 2018 St. Paul’s Athens

Canon L W Doolan

 

It all began even before the mists of time, if such a thing were possible. Tonight we pick up the story at a certain point. This episode begins with an Archangel appearing to a young woman in Palestine, and a conception that is a mystery, because it defies all logic. But then the Holy Trinity is not about logic.

God, in the form of Gabri-el, is present at this mystery; the begetting of the Son is taking place; the work of the Holy Spirit is at hand. This is an epiphany of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son , and Holy Spirit. This is truly a moment pregnant with grace and good news.

What originates as a mystery results in the very real evidence, proof; a baby born of Mary and placed in a crib. What could be more of a challenge to the intellect than this – God incarnate lying as a helpless baby in a crib. The first sign of breath accompanied by a cry of a tiny innocent infant, the last sign of breath on a cross accompanied by the words, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’

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Third Sunday of Advent 16th December 2018 – Preparing the way for Good News

Deacon Chris Saccali

 

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

DRIVING PAST THE APPROACH TO OUR VILLAGE a couple of weeks ago I noticed a notice board propped up at the side of the road with the words GOOD NEWS emblazoned at the top and bottom. “Great” I thought to myself, “we could all do with some of that.” Next time I passed by, I slowed down as much as I dared so that I could read the small print (always a wise move) and discovered that the good tidings were referring to upholstery covers being restored or mended! But that got me thinking on how our spiritual lives can and need to be renewed and restored in this refreshing, yet penitential advent period.

 

Today, on the third Sunday of Advent, we are thinking about John the Baptist and his message of Good News. This phrase Good News comes right at the end of this passage in verse 18 in Greek Evaggelion literally the good message/ announcement which is also the word in Greek for gospel. Originally it was used in Roman times by the town crier to announce messages about the Empire. Only later did Good News come to have a Christian connotation such as we read here in Luke’s gospel.

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Advent Sunday 2018 Athens

Fr James Harris

 

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness…

We don’t have to look far to see very dark forces at work in these days. Some recent headlines illustrate the point:

  • More people have died at sea attempting to reach Spain ifrom north Africa n the last three months than during the whole of 2017
  • 10 provinces of Ukraine are now under martial law
  • Famine in Yemen
  • Murder in synagogues; murder in embassies

I don’t need to go on – but I could.

And Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan – they rarely even make it into the news bulletins these days…

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Trinity 25, 18th November 2018: Daniel 12: 1-3; Hebrews 10: 11-14, 19-25; Mark 13: 1-8

Fr James Harris

 

I want to take you on a journey of the imagination this morning. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, we will begin…

 

Our imagined scene takes place somewhere on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in the province of Judea in what today would be called the year 30 AD or what the Jews of the time might have calculated as something like the 3,791st year of the Era of the World – i.e. since Creation.

 

It’s a fertile place, not like the deserts down south; sheep and goats are bleating, the whiff of fresh fish coming on the breeze from the shoreline where the fishermen sort their catch. The small town of white, low rise buildings nestles on the hillside and this is where you, a faithful Jew, have grown up.

 

In the centre of the town is a small synagogue where, week by week, for as long as you can remember, you have seen the great scrolls unrolled and the scriptures read – wonderful, ancient, inspiring histories recounting God’s faithfulness to his people, and prophecies of the time when he will send his chosen one, his Messiah to save and to set free. Prophecies like that of Daniel who talks so powerfully of this moment when a new age will dawn for God’s people here on earth. It won’t be without drama – when is it otherwise with God? – but it will mean blessing for the faithful who endure. Daniel even talks about people rising from the dead on that day. Now that’s really weird; no other scriptures talk about that possibility. Earthly life – work, family, harvest – is where you hope for God’s blessing, not once you’re dead.

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Remembrance Sunday 2018 St Paul’s Athens

Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan

 

In a railway carriage that belonged to Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Supreme commander of the Allied forces, in the Forest of Compiegne in France the Armistice agreement was signed. The senior British representative was Sir Rosslyn Wemyss.

After millions of deaths, on all sides of this so called ‘war to end all wars’, it was signed at 11.00hrs, on the 11th day of the 11th month. It is a poignant moment, and it is right that this occasion should be so solemnly marked in so many parts of the world, not least in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and right here where we are.

Hostilities may have ceased at that historic moment, but we know that it was not the war to end all wars. There may have been a naivete among those who claimed it, however the aspiration that there should be no more human carnage on this scale is entirely understandable. How can we make any sense out of the mass slaughter of European, African, antipodean lives on European soil, fighting European battles?

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SS Simon & Jude 2018

Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan

 

‘I believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic church.’ We say this every week in the Creed, and the observant among you would have heard this very phrase being used in the Licensing ceremony of Fr. James just a couple of weeks ago, when the Archdeacon said, ‘The Church of England is part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation.’

Being an apostolic church has at least two implications for us. Firstly, the word means ‘sent’. The NT verb is apostello, but it will be better known to modern Greek speakers as the verb stelno, ‘I send’. God ‘sent’ his Son into the world as his Word made flesh. St. John’s gospel uses the verb frequently. So as God sent his Son, Jesus, so Jesus at the time when they received the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit, sent his ‘apostles’ to be Christ’s presence, Christ’s message, Christ as gospel, into the world.

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Harvest Festival Deuteronomy 8: 7-18; Luke 12: 16-30

Fr James Harris

 

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land… a land of vines… of olive trees and honey… [where] you shall eat your fill.’

Sound familiar?!

 

Just take a moment to look around you – at the sheer beauty, goodness, abundance of this place, this land which the Lord our God has given us, in which, for whatever reason, and for however long now, he has seen fit to have us live.

Ever since we arrived here as a family at the end of August, I have been reminded just how close to the terrain of the Holy Land we are here in Greece, how similar the landscape is in this land where east meets west. Those verses from Deuteronomy could’ve been written about this place as much as about the Promised Land. And, in one sense, of course, they are written about this land and about every piece of land – because as much as they are describing a specific geographical location to which the people of God were being led at that point in history, they are also describing in universal terms the type of relationship, the covenant God has made with his Creation as a whole.

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