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A NEW CREATION, A NEW WORLD

Updated: Apr 9

by (†) Bishop Augustinos Kantiotes

Published by the Holy Women’s Coenobitic Monastery of St. Augustine Florina, Greece Saturday of the Akathist Hymn - April 20th, 2024





Rejoice, thou through whom creation is renewed.

Rejoice, thou through whom the Creator becometh a babe (Akathist Hymn, “A”)



Today, my beloved, our holy Church chants the Akathist Hymn in honour of the all-holy Mother of the Lord. It is an exceptional poem, a phenomenon of the Byzantine era. It’s not only chanted in our small country, it’s also chanted in all the other Orthodox countries: in Serbia, in Bulgaria, in Romania and in the vast Russian land. After the fall of the atheist regime, Russians —our fellow Orthodox Christians— also celebrate today. They even created an “Orthodox bank” — the first of its kind— to accumulate money so as to rebuild the churches that the atheist regime demolished. God has performed magnificent wonders in our times, great and awesome miracles. The Akathist Hymn is a reiteration: the first “Rejoice” is repeated 144 times after the initial “An angel and the chiefest among them was sent from Heaven to cry: Rejoice! to the Mother of God.” Tonight, let us briefly interpret the greeting “Rejoice, thou through whom creation is renewed. Rejoice, thou through whom the Creator becometh a babe.” What does this mean? Man, my brethren, is the most sublime of God’s creation, which proclaims His glory. Man has two births, one is humble (the physical birth), the other is lofty (the spiritual birth). The physical birth. The Fathers of the Church say that each person could have been born in another way. For example, the angels came about in a different way, and are innumerable in number. But God prescribed that each person would be born from the union of man and woman. A person’s destination, of course, isn’t to remain physical – woe if we are restricted only to that. We must progress to something higher, i.e. to accept a spiritual-supernatural birth. What is that?


You’ve probably been present at the Sacrament of baptism. In the baptismal font there is tap water, the greatest element of life which God created. And what does that water do? The Holy Spirit descends through the priest’s prayers and the natural water obtains supernatural, divine strength and performs a miracle – i.e. in the sanctified water of the baptismal font, a second birth occurs, a spiritual, supernatural birth. Before entering the water, the child is burdened by original sin. We hear this in another verse: “Rejoice, for thou didst regenerate those conceived in shame” (“T”). But someone who is baptized in the holy font is not a child of so-and-so any more, he is a child of God, who has been born of water and of the Spirit (Jn. 3:5). Burdened by original sin, he is washed, cleansed and lives from now on as a new creation in the world. The child is now a child of God. This is the esteemed regeneration (see 1Pet. 1:3 & 23).


Birth and rebirth. How can I present it in another way, simply, so you can understand? It’s as if we have a cabin that blew over, and the engineer comes along and draws up a plan and rebuilds it as a new 8-storey building. What a difference there is between the old cabin and the new building! Or, it’s as if you have a rusty, metal statue and the sculptor takes it and throws it into the furnace, melts it and re-sculpts it so that it shines like the sun. Or, it’s like a seed which is buried in the ground, decomposes, and then from that seed grows a beautiful, majestic tree.


Creation was renewed through the incarnation of the Son of God, and Panagia contributed to that. It is concerning this unique mediation of hers, that the poet of the Akathist Hymn writes, when he exclaims to the Mother of Christ with wonder: “Rejoice, thou through whom creation is renewed.”


A new creation, a new world! Were we worthy for something like that? Humanity tried from ancient times to do this, but failed. In our times, although the powerful boasted that we were headed for a new world, we saw two worldwide wars and went backwards. The blood that was shed could have filled a lake like Vegoritida or Prespes – it was a pitiful failure. And the worst: the danger of a new war threatens us again, which, according to the Book of Revelation, will be Armageddon (Rev 16:18). The tyrants boasted of their weapons, the scientists of their machines, the philosophers of their intellectualism, the teachers of their schools and universities. The result? It’s not me who says it, Goethe, one of their philosophers says it: “Behold, with so many lights, I am blinded. As blind as I was before.”


We walk in darkness. We only have the physical birth, but we also need the spiritual birth, the rebirth. We need to be renewed in another holy font. Just as the baptismal font is a type of Jordan River in which a person is washed and cleansed of their previous defilement, in the same way we need another font after baptism, to cleanse our sins.


We are all sinners, only the baptized infants are pure. (So don’t cry for the children who died in infancy, they live like angels in the heavens, while we lose our innocence after our childhood years). If you could show me an ocean or a sea without waves, then I could show you a person who is pure. No person is perfect, we all sin. Since no-one is exempted, then how can we wipe out the sins we perform after baptism? What does the Gospel say about this, or the holy Fathers, or the examples of the saints?


Give me one tear! We shed many tears, but they are fruitless. We cry, we cry, we cry, but not from repentance. Give me one of those tears that the repentant sinners shed for their sins, and that tear will become a new baptismal font, a new Jordan River, in which we are washed clean.


Now that we are voyaging through Great Lent, it is an opportunity to bathe once again. Glory to God, somewhere close to you, in your city or town, will be a spiritual father. Once upon a time, when confession was an unknown Sacrament, there weren’t spiritual fathers. Now there are. And it’s true that more women and children confess, and less men. I plead with everyone, before Great Lent ends, take care to attend to this issue. You will feel joy, the great joy that forgiveness of sins brings. Do the heavens rejoice when someone is baptized? The same occurs with the second baptism, with repentance and confession. There is also something else, a third baptism, which is rare. In ancient times, in the first centuries, the Christians would be arrested before they could be baptized. So what became of them? The blood of their martyrdom became their baptism, they were baptized in their own blood!


This is what I had to say tonight, in a few words, my brethren. I remind you of the following: In Smyrna,1 the unforgettable Smyrna, a good newspaper was published - it was called Mentor (which means a sensible, advisor-friend.) It’s subtitle was: “Greece, you won’t become a great nation if you aren’t reborn in Christ.” We need to be reborn, because rebirth is a spiritual birth, and it’s justified by the remission of sins.


What is needed for this rebirth to occur? An angel? An archangel? No - God Himself came! The Creator, through the Theotokos, became a babe here on earth. Yes, God here on earth! Don’t you wonder? Aren’t you amazed? Why did God come? For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that everyone who believeth in Him should not perish, but may have everlasting life (Jn 3:16). He came into the world a babe, an infant, in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s why there is no other name under the heavens that can save us. That name is Jesus Christ, which we Greeks should hymn and glorify unto all the ages, Amen.


A Transcribed sermon, which was given at the Church of St. Panteleimon,

Florina Greece on the eve of 5-3-1993.


  1. Today's Izmir


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Dear Fr. Peter,

Greetings and love from Denmark! I pray for good health, strength, and a speedy recovery for you and your loved ones.

In Christ,

Xenia

Curtir
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