Articles Tagged ‘Magi’

Are you Saved? A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary January 2017

Are you Saved?


Have you been greeted with the question, “Are you saved?” The question is well intentioned, but what is the Orthodox reply? To simply say, “yes,” would give a speedy conclusion to the interrogation, but would not reveal the fullness of the true Orthodox teaching of salvation.

The three stages of salvation in the Orthodox Christian Church are past, present and future. A more specific response to, “Are you saved?” would be, “I was saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.” The road towards eternal life is an ongoing process to the Orthodox Christian.

Salvation is not a one-time deal; it is a course of action that we maintain on a daily basis. We were saved by Christ’s death on the cross, we are saved during our daily walk with Christ and we will be saved at the end of time. The three stages of Salvation are, through Baptism we are justified, during our daily walk with Christ we are sanctified, and in the end times, with Christ, we will be glorified. St. Paul explains that, “We are saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8)” Grace is God’s gift to us. Faith is our reception of that gift. Without God’s Grace and Mercy, we cannot be saved. Basically, our salvation depends strictly on God’s compassion; there is nothing we can do to earn salvation.

Orthodoxy’s concept of “salvation” then leads to the following, very appropriate, question I received in the form of an email: “If everyone is saved at birth through God’s grace and all they need is faith to be saved, and there is nothing we can do to earn God’s Grace, what is the point of attending Church, learning more about religion and following Christ's way, because if you have faith you don't need to work very hard to be saved?”

The best way to respond to this question is to break it down into its components. “Is everyone saved at birth through God’s grace?” At the service of the Forty-Day Churching of a child, the Priest prays, “So that when the child is made worthy of Holy Baptism, it may gain the portion of the elect of Your Kingdom, safeguarded with us by the grace of the Holy Trinity.” We receive God’s grace at Baptism; this is the first step in attaining God’s gift of grace and entering salvation.

“All we need is faith to be saved?” Yes, but this leads to the classic Christian debate of “are we saved by works or by faith?” Our faith in Christ produces fruits, those fruits then are the good works we display during our daily walk with Christ. Therefore, faith and work go hand in hand. Our faith in God and our love for Him produce good works.

“Then there is nothing we can do to earn God’s Grace?” Right, regardless of how many souls we bring to Christ, the amount of empty stomachs we fill and the number of backs we clothe, there is nothing we can do to earn God’s Grace. His Grace is a gift. “Faith is man’s hand reaching up to grasp the already outstretched hand of God’s grace.”

What is the point of at-tending Church, learning more about religion and following Christ's way? First, as mentioned earlier, God’s gift of grace is given at the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is grant-ed because of active participation in the life of the Church. When a child is brought to be baptized an adult (sponsor) stands for the child and promises to live according to Christ’s commands, just as an adult would do when entering the Sacrament. Second, we must remember that nothing we do is worthy of God’s Grace, the reason for attending Church and following Christ’s way is to communicate with God, to receive His grace, and to find sustenance for our daily walk with Him. Some live by the time-worn excuse that “you don’t have to go to church to be a good Christian.” Christ Himself found it important to attend and participate in weekly worship, so by what bench-mark do we feel that we are entitled to do less? At the Last Supper the Lord said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” We some-times say it is our duty to go to church, and it is; but few go for this reason. I would prefer that no one come to church out of a sense of duty. A duty-bound Christian is not a committed soul. The ones who come just from a sense of duty come to criticize. They won't sense the presence of God. The Orthodox church building represents God amongst His people. Our attendance is for communion with Him. When we gather as a Church, that is God’s people, we gather in communion with one another and with Him. Christ tells us in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Sacraments are offered through the Orthodox Church. Through the Sacraments we grow closer to Christ. It is at the Church where we receive Baptism, Chrismation, Unction, Communion and Confession (the five mandatory Sacraments). It is the Church that gives us instruction for the way in which we are to imitate Christ. Can you call yourself a Christian devoid of attending weekly services? Yes. But consider this, could you play on a baseball team and in a game of base-ball without practicing? Yes, but without practice, where do you get your instruction, preparation and fellowship with your team-mates? Going to Church gives us nourishment for life’s challenges.

Salvation is God’s gift to man, as abundant as it is, man must be willing to accept it. Receiving this grace is faith and faith is “Forsaking All I Take Him (F-A-I-T-H).” Are you saved? Yes, we have been, we are being, and we will be saved!



In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Becoming: A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary February 2017

Becoming


As Christians, we are always in the process of “becoming.” The person I am today is not the same person I was 10 years ago, nor am I, who I believe I will be 10 years from now.

One of the most significant spiritual events in my life was the birth of my firstborn son, Harrison. My wife, Christie, was induced, so his birth was planned and not a fire drill. As this new life came into the world I burst into tears as they put him in his mother’s arms. Here was new life, life that didn’t exist moments earlier, a miracle. However, it was not the miracle of birth that was the significant spiritual event, it was the thought that immediately followed: “God’s love for us is truly immense!” This little being that, having never spoken or acted in any way towards me, had just inherited my love. Having done nothing for me, I was prepared to die for him! I was in love! I understood, on a microlevel, what God’s love for us is.

The understanding of this type of love has shaped my experiences. It has transformed my worldview and calling to the Priest-hood. Love, without sounding cliché, is truly the purpose of life. Christ simplified the Law for us, by providing a new standard. In Luke 10: 27, he says, “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, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The new standard given to us by Christ is the source of measurement I attempt to implement in my life. What is man’s greatest need? Love. Based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, after food, shelter, and security, love is what man craves most. Ministry should fulfill the need of love. The programs at the St. Demetrios are founded on Christ’s love for us and our love for our neighbor. Bible study groups, Youth Ministry meetings, service at the local Rescue Mission, and Parish Council, etc. are all founded on the principle of love. As I serve the faithful, I am reminded of God’s love for me through the relation-ships built with the flock. Our Lord has entrusted me to serve you with love.

Although I continually find myself in error and mistake, I always endeavor to imitate God’s love. It was that simple, yet profound moment, when my firstborn child came into the world that best illustrates this lesson. It was an experience unlike any other that changed my perspective on many matters in my life and ministry.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Who are the Magi and what can we offer our Infant Savior? A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary December 2016

Who are the Magi and what can we offer our Infant Savior?


Magi is the plural form of the word “Magus.” What, then, is a Magus? In Webster’s Third New International Dictionary the following two definitions are given: 1) a member of a hereditary priestly class among the ancient Medes and Persians whose doctrines include a belief in astrology; one of the traditionally three wise men from the East who according to the Gospel of Matthew paid homage to the infant Jesus 2) an adept in occult arts: magician, sorcerer.

At first glance a faithful Christian may be disturbed with the description of the Magi as “sorcerers or magicians.” This seems to be a conflicting message. By today’s standards a person amused by sorcery and magic does not fit the definition of a Christian. Since as putting your hope and trust in anything other than Christ leaves little room to follow His instruction. Giving credence to such belief closes the door on the Christian values.

The other definitions of the Magi seem to fit our understanding of the Nativity of Christ. The Magi were priests, they are mentioned in the Gospel of St. Matthew, and they had a good understanding of astrology. Why does St. Matthew mention the wise men in his description of the birth of Jesus?

Christ’s entrance into this world and His human nature are all foretold by the Prophets. Jesus Christ fulfills the will of God and all the scripture from the Law and the Prophets. A star is revealed to the Magi, who live in the east, inspiring them to seek out the Christ child. When they approach King Herod with their desire to see the Infant King, they remind Herod of the writings of the Prophet Micah who exclaimed, “But you, O Bethlehem . . . from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.” Herod then sends them out to find the baby Jesus.

Matthew’s mention of the actions of the Magi be-comes clearer when we focus on their conduct as they encounter the “place where the child was.” “They fell down and worshipped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)” Three of the wisest men in all of Judea knelt before an infant! An infant who had no words of wisdom to share, they knelt before him, gave praise, and offered gifts. St. Mat-thews mention of the Magi is an exhibition in humility. A great sign was revealed to these intelligent priests, and through faith, they sought after the Savior offering their treasure. They abandoned the superstitions of their forefathers and find new life in Christ!

What are gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and what is their significance? Frankincense was a very valuable commodity in ancient times. It is an incense taken from the gum resin of east African or Arabian trees. Myrrh is a yellow to reddish brown aromatic bitter gum resin that is also obtained from trees found in east Africa or Arabic countries. In ancient times people used myrrh as the chief ingredient for a sweet smelling perfume and a remedy for a local application. Gold represents extreme value, and is one of the most desirable minerals of all time.

The hymns chanted on the feast day of the Nativity make very few references to the crucifixion and death of Jesus. They mainly concentrate on Christ, the Word of God, “the Logos,” taking on flesh and entering the world in human form. The gifts of the Magi are mentioned in hymns chanted on the day after Christmas. In those hymns the gifts make reference to the three days Christ spends in the tomb. Gold, the most celebrated earthly possession, rising to heaven with the two, very valuable, forms of incense (frankincense and myrrh).

What can we offer the Infant Savior this Christ-mas? Like the Magi, let us first offer our humility by acknowledging His divinity. Let’s fall down before Him and worship Christ God. The Magi were renewed by the Birth of Jesus. When they left the cave, the birthplace of our Lord, they also left behind their former practices of sorcery and magic. They were renewed by the nativity of our Lord. Let us take the example of the three wise men and leave behind our evil ways. Lets abandon our attachment to the devices of this world and seek out the peace of God.

Lets renew ourselves with the Birth of our Lord!

Christ is born.
Glorify Him!

In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary