The Visitation, artist unknown

Priest: The Virgin, bearing God in her womb, hastened to visit Elizabeth, whose own babe at once knowing her greeting, rejoiced and leaping up as if in song, cried out to the Theotokos:

Rejoice, branch of an unwithered shoot;
Rejoice, land of unblemished fruit.
Rejoice, you who cultivate the husband and who loves humankind;
Rejoice, for you gave birth to the gardener of our life.
Rejoice, arable land yielding an abundance of compassion;
Rejoice, table laden an abundance of grace.
Rejoice, for you make flourish the meadows of luxury;
Rejoice, for you prepare a safe harbor for our souls.
Rejoice, intercession’s acceptable incense;
Rejoice, expiation for all the world.
Rejoice, goodwill of God to mortals;
Rejoice, boldness of mortals before God.
Rejoice, O Bride unwedded.

People: Rejoice, O Bride unwedded.

(excerpt from The Akathist Hymn)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David: to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of goodwill.”

Gospel of Luke,

Ávē Marī́a, grā́tiā plḗna, Dóminus tḗcum. Benedícta tū in muliéribus, et benedíctus frū́ctus véntris túī, Iḗsūs. Sā́ncta Marī́a, Mā́ter Déī, ṓrā prō nṓbīs peccātṓribus, nunc et in hṓrā mórtis nóstrae. Āmēn.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Dorothea Lange, 1936, New York Public Library

We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.

― Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)

A blessed Incarnation to you. May all blessing and protection rest on you and those you love and may this troubled world be healed.

… we say together…


On Equality

To all people of grace and goodwill, greetings and blessings from the Apostolic Johannite Church:

All across the world, we continue to struggle with the legacies of hatred, structural racism and white supremacism. Despite the extraordinary strides that have been made, this fight is far from over. Each nation faces unique challenges in regards to the marginalisation and oppression of black and indigenous people of colour. In Canada, Australia, the United States, and elsewhere we continue to see the damage wrought by slavery and colonialism; black, aboriginal, and First Nations peoples pay the price for the mistakes of our history and the continuing mistakes of our institutions, leaders, fellow citizens, and ourselves.

The Johannite Statement of Principles specifically states, “We recognize the Sacred Flame to be present in all Beings…without discrimination on the basis of gender, race, social status or sexual orientation.” Nothing could be more clear. And yet we will say it again. The Apostolic Johannite Church recognises, stands with, and supports oppressed communities globally, and is dedicated to the principles of the universal presence of the Sacred Flame and the equality of all peoples without exception. We reject utterly the ideas of white supremacism and all other forms of hatred, exclusion, and oppression. We find these doctrines to be fundamentally incompatible with the teachings of the Christ and the Holy Gnosis.

We ask that you and all people of good will join us in combatting hatred in all its forms, by prayer, by speech, and by action. We pray to the Divine Beloved to heal our hearts and our lands, so that we may all be one even as the Beloved is one. We remain

Your devoted servants before the Sacred Flame:

+ The Most Rev. Shaun McCann, Ep.Gn.
Sovereign Pontiff of the Apostolic Johannite Church
Primate of Canada

+ The Most Rev. William Behun, Ph.D, Ep.Gn.
Primate of the United States

+ The Most Rev. Timothy Mansfield, Ph.D, Ep.Gn.
Bishop of New South Wales, Australia

Originally published at AJC Statement on Racism, 3 July 2020

Photo by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash

Love, Revulsion and the Spiritual Journey

“Be perfect therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”

Matthew 5:48

In the classical gnostic text Apocryphon of John, the word “perfect” is used to describe the world of the Aeons and the primal One from which all things emanate. The word in Greek (τέλειός) mirrors the English sense of “perfected”, fully matured, complete, rather than the more everyday use of “perfect” in English, without blemish or flaw.

The Aeons emanate from the One in a harmonious manner, each matched with a partner, acting in concert to continue the unfolding of the Divine Fullness. At least that is until Wisdom (Sophia) who takes a different path – she acts apart from her partner.

Wisdom on her own is deficient, partial, incomplete and acting apart from the One, the First Father. In this state of deficiency, of imperfection, she gives birth to a lion-faced flaming creature, Ialdabaoth, the Chief Ruler of the lower realms, the creator of human beings and of the psychic and material worlds and the merciless tyrant over all. She is troubled by the appearance of her child and abandons it and tries to conceal it. All the problems of our inner life arise as a consequence of this sequence of deficient actions.

Ialdabaoth (source unknown)

I have long thought of Ialdabaoth as a cosmic archetype of the human Ego. Trying to control everything all the time, unable to conceive of any power higher than itself, a tyrant unto itself and, like all tyrants, driven by fear, rage and loneliness. The Ego is often thought of as The Big Problem in spiritual life and generations of spiritual Mothers and Fathers have described various methods for its discipline and eradication — either by subduing it, destroying it or outgrowing and transcending it.

Some recent realisations in my own inner life and continued meditation on the Apocryphon lead me to wonder if we are misidentifying the problem and prescribing a solution which may be more difficult than it needs to be. We all begin life as a child and as we develop through life we uncover what seems like wisdom — we learn life lessons, we become socialised and often we learn about how inappropriate and embarrassing our childish behaviour is.

This wisdom we think we gain is a higher vision of our self than the younger self it reflects on, but as adults, when we reflect on each stage we have matured through, we see how partial, how incomplete that wisdom — which seemed perfect at the time — was. Over time, we come to realise that whatever seems like wisdom now, will probably seem partial, incomplete, deficient as we continue to mature through our lives.

How many times have we replayed that story, the new wisdom, mother of our new self, is embarrassed and even ashamed of the child we have outgrown. The child is abandoned and hidden in the darkness as we strive to be someone new. But over and over, this new self buys its freedom, its adulthood with the imprisonment of who we have just been, the child who is now abandoned. This child who screams in outrage, who tries to take over our impulses and get what it needs by stealth, when it does not receive it by love.

A woman in my church recently uncovered a possible answer to a puzzle in this enigmatic text: who is Wisdom’s partner? That Wisdom (Sophia) has a partner is mentioned, but the identity of that partner is not clearly stated. This perceptive woman laid out some evidence from the text that the spouse of Wisdom may well be Perfection, another of the Aeons, which once she said it, seemed both obvious and beautiful.

Wisdom in the story achieves her redemption through Christ, the Self-Generated, perfect image of the One. She cannot do it herself because Perfection lies beyond herself and certainly beyond her tyrant son. United though, Perfection-Wisdom is the image of Christ, the image of the Perfect One and in that perfection Wisdom is able to see all things in their natural state, in Love and Joy.

The Apocryphon of John suggests how redemption, the solution to the human dilemma, is to be achieved, but it does not tell the end of the story. It leaves an open possibility into which every commentator has projected their own ideas of what we, its readers, ought to do. So I will follow this tradition and project my own ideas.

Perhaps the invitation from this ancient text, for us contemporary human beings, is to simply walk away from the broken fragmented view of our Self which our Deficient Wisdom has offered us all through life, look at ourselves with the eyes of love and see ourselves the way the First Father sees us, as Whole, as Complete, as His Children and His Image. If no part of this Self of mine is hideous or broken or wrong, if all of it is a part of the image of God and in worship of That One the only proper response seems to me to love every dark, lost part of me, to protect all those lost children inside.

As true as it is of my Self, how much is it true of Yours? How much love and care can I offer You, how much would ever be enough?

May we all be granted the Perfection-Wisdom to see ourselves as we are: the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of God’s power and the image of His goodness (Wisdom of Solomon 7:26).


Pray for Christchurch

News reports today tell us that 40 people have been killed and more than 20 injured in shooting at two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand. Four people have been arrested in connection with this massacre and early evidence suggests that this is an ideologically motivated crime.

Families, children, women and men going about their Friday shot and killed by people driven by beliefs born of hatred and intolerance.

My heart lays broken.

As the Bishop of this diocese, which includes Christchurch, I ask all people of goodwill to join me in praying for the repose of the souls of those killed – we may not share identical faith commitments, but we trust that God hears all prayers and keeps us all in God’s love.

I ask you to pray for the injured, that they may recover and return to good health.

I ask you to pray for families of those who have died that they may find comfort and eventual peace.

I ask you to pray for those in the communities affected – the communities of those specific mosques, the neighbourhoods surrounding these events and, given the nature of the crimes, the whole Muslim community in Christchurch, in New Zealand more broadly and, I suspect, even here in Australia, all of whom end today more terrified than they started it.

Finally, and perhaps toughest, I ask you to pray for the perpetrators of this crime, for those who encouraged them, for those in the media they listened to and for all those who share their beliefs that they may meet Wisdom, grasp justice and finally find compassion for all peoples and cease this hateful path.

Lord, hear our prayer.

+ Tim

Regular Events for 2019

The parish meets once a month, typically on the fourth Sunday of the month. You can see the full, current calendar on the Calendar Page. You can also sign up to the parish newsletter for event updates.

Dinner and discussion

Most monthly meetings are an evening of discussion, held in a pub over dinner.

These evenings are an informal time to meet and get to know each other, but also to discuss what we’re reading, ask questions, and share ideas and experiences. 

Usual venue: The Toxteth Hotel, Glebe
Usual starting time: 5:30pm

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Eucharist Service

The Eucharist is the most common, Christian service or liturgy. In some churches, it’s called The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Mass, or the Divine Liturgy.

The ritual of the Eucharist enacts the weaving together of the Divine and the human, and the simultaneous weaving together of each of us into the sacred community.

Each person makes their own sense of it. But we stand together in our practice of it.

Usual venue: The Unitarian Church, 15 Francis St, Darlinghurst
Usual starting time: 5:30pm

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