10 Tuba, 1732AM
Tuesday 19th January 2016
Our Ref: B.D.02.295.14.2016
No. of Pages: 2
Coptic Orthodox of Alexandria, Diocese of Sydney & Affiliated Regions
Message for the Feast of Theophany 2016.
My beloved the Reverend Fathers the Priests, my beloved the congregation of the blessed Diocese of Sydney & its Affiliated Regions, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and congratulate all of you on the Feast of Theophany 2016, wishing all of you all the joy and happiness of this unique occasion.
We will share together few of the blessings of the Theophany this year as follows:
As the story of the Theophany is so important, it was mentioned in the four Gospels: Mathew 3:13-17, Mark 1: 9-11, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:29-36.
In Matthew 3: 16, Mark 1:9, Luke 3:21 and John 1:33, we read that:” the heavens were opened”, so this will be the title of my message this year.
- The term: “ The heavens were opened “ is not new in the history of our race, it was mentioned in the first book of the Bible when the people whom had been created in the image of God, left Him and did all the evil things, as we read in Genesis 6:5-6New King James Version (NKJV), 5 Then the Lord[a] saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
As a result of this the Lord decided to destroy all the living that lives on earth as we read in Genesis 7:4New King James Version (NKJV), 4 For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.”
So the Lord ordered the heavens to be opened as we read in Genesis 7:11, In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
There is message here for every one of us, we need to live in righteousness, as what the Lord said to Noah in Genesis 7:1New King James Version (NKJV), 7 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.
- The heavens can be opened to those who endure persecution, while Ezekiel the prophet was among the captives, he saw a vision of God and his glory as we read in Ezekiel 1:1, 28 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God…
28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
The lesson here is we need to know that entering the kingdom of heaven is not easy it comes through us accepting many hardships and difficulties as we read in Acts 14:22, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
- Then the question arises: How can we endure the tribulations? The answer is:” Prayers” we need to pray always to God, prayers can make the heavens open for us, If you read carefully what happened when the heavens were opened in the baptism of Christ, especially in Luke, we will discover that the Lord Himself was praying to teach us to pray, let us read Luke 3:21, When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.
We need to know that: prayers must be effective and fervent. We need to pray from our hearts, we need to pray for one another, we need to know that prayers must form part of the way we live. Let us read James 5:16, pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
- Again the question arises, is prayers enough for us to let the heaven open, the answer is yes, however we need to know that as true Christians we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit as, St Steven the Archdeacon was, let us read Acts 7:55-56, But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”.
Dear brothers and sisters, for us being full of the Holy Spirit, we need to work very hard to gain the fruits of the Holy Spirit which mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
I wish you all the blessings of the Theophany, May He who was born from the Virgin Mary and baptized from John the Baptist keep the life of the father of the fathers His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark, for many years to come.
We also pray to Him to bless Australia, its people and its Government, and the whole world including our mother land Egypt.
God bless you all
Bishop of the Diocese of Sydney & Affiliated Regions
Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.