The students of Saint Andrew’s Theological College began their spiritual journey in theology this year from the Holy Cathedral of the Annunciation of Our Lady in Redfern, Sydney. On this journey they will be accompanied by the heartfelt paternal wishes of their Shepherd and Dean of the College, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia, who presided over the annual Doxology for the beginning of the new academic year.
Also present were Metropolitan Seraphim of Sevasteia and Metropolitan Myron of New Zealand, His Grace Bishop Bartholomew of Charioupolis, the Chancellor of the Holy Archdiocese, Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne Christophoros Krikelis, as well as the Sub-Dean of the Theological College Mr. Philip Kariatlis, the Lecturers, and other staff of the Theological College.
At the end of the Doxology, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios described to the students that by studying Theology we are able to realise the power of divine love and become close to Christ. Referring first to St. Maximus the Confessor, His Eminence recalled a comprehensive phrase included in his writings: “the reward of faith is knowledge… and knowledge gives rise to love for God”, which very clearly highlights the relationship between the study of Theology and love.
Citing the words of Saint Maximus, Archbishop Makarios pointed out that “the criterion by which we can evaluate the degree to which our study of Theology is genuine or not, is the degree to which our love for God seems to grow and intensify within our hearts.” Subsequently, His Eminence quoted another passage from the same Saint, where it is emphasised that whoever loves God, cannot help but love every human being.
This is a principle, which the Evangelist John also presents, when he mentions that “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers, are liars; for those who do not love a brother whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. (1 Jn. 4:20). “Our love for others, that is, a heart open to the needs of others, is considered identical to our love for Christ,” His Eminence added in conclusion.
At another point, the Archbishop emphasised that the study of Theology requires you to be inspired, that is, to fill yourself completely with the Holy Spirit, which leads you to Christ and to the love of God. “Only when we receive the divine gift of the Holy Spirit, can we then ‘theologise’”, he pointed out, “that is, dedicate ourselves to sharing this love of God from the bottom of our hearts with our neighbours”.
He added that transcending ourselves and devoting ourselves, with our whole being, to the service of others, allows us to experience the joy of Theology. “But more than joy, the study of Theology, also understood as an encounter with our Lord”, he continued, “leads us to a reality – and here lies the true power of Theology – which until now would have been unattainable, not to mention unimaginable, given our human predicament: namely, the gift of Christ’s victory over death. In this sense, then, true Theology is the one that leads us to the loving and life-giving presence of Christ, frees us from the tortures of Hades and grants us the gift of eternal life.”
Finally, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios asked the students of the Theological College to start their spiritual journey with a lot of faith, love and trust towards the Church and the Holy Archdiocese of Australia. He urged them to look forward to meeting Christ himself on this journey, while he asked them to practice prayer, because without prayer, as he noted, they will not learn Theology and will never become theologians. He also asked of them to participate in the liturgical life of the Church, which is a spiritual investment and not a waste of time.
After the Doxology, a meal followed which the Archbishop hosted in honour of the Lecturers and new students.