On holy night, stars aligned in mystical ways, and under the brightest one a child was born. Born of patience and of faith, wrapped warmly lying in a manger and held in his parents’ loving arms, this baby boy opened his wide beautiful eyes of heaven’s suns. He then grew up to become one of the greatest teachers of the human heart and the power of love.

Of course every child is a miracle. We all are miracles. So many things had to come together for you to be born; all stars above and all cells in your body had to all mutually say yes to you, yes to life. And here you are. Born of love. With noses to smell the sweetness of a baked cake, with lips to speak kindness and to say I love you, with hands to hold on holding strong each other’s hands, and with ears to hear the laughter of your family. Isn’t that magic?

Jesus Christ as human, not as God, created the awakening of the soul. He showed us how to live heaven on earth, he showed us through his ordinary and everyday gestures and movements how to be better human beings. He showed us: The kingdom of heaven is within us. It is in our hearts. Because love is a seed of God. And when we nourish that seed within the church of skin, within the home of our heart, we become the warm shelter for all – we embody love and kindness and humanness. Jesus Christ not as God but as human awakened the miracles.

So in this season we celebrate life, we celebrate the heart, we celebrate the greatest power of all: love. We remind ourselves how we can create miracles through our hands, lips, and everyday movements and gestures.

Thoughts on religion, the church and featuring three special Christmas carols

Today my family and I went to a church for a carols sing-along that also collected food and charity for the locals who need it and for other food banks. It was my first time going to a carols sing-along in a church – and I never ever thought I’d do that (because I’m so shy singing!) Perhaps it was the humility of it all, how all these people had gathered together hearts full of hope despite the world we live in, but my eyes filled with tears the entire time – tears for the disabled child sitting behind me and her cries, and tears for the pain and sadness in our world and all that humanity still struggles with. But my tears were also ones of deep gratitude for all that I have in my life … for all the love and all the blessings that I have with my family. It was also tears for all the humility, hope and kindness of many other people in our world because there are still so many who are good and true.

I live in Toronto currently and there is a big problem with homelessness and poverty despite the rich high rises in one of the most developed and glamorous cities in the world. Temperatures often go to -30 C in the winter. Shelters and churches are the only ones taking care of those who need warmth and food. And both of these are supported by the local neighbourhoods. The government doesn’t do much. So people can say all they want about the church and about Christianity, but the church helps many people even though many churches are now closing down because of lack of support. Some are even destroyed to create fancy high rises. It’s never been the religion that is inherently evil – it is the people with wrong and ill intentions, sick and twisted mindsets, predatory behaviours, misinterpretations of sacred text, and misuse and abuse of other people’s faith and vulnerabilities. The spiritually impure will never perceive nor understand the spiritually pure. They think they do, but they don’t, they can’t and they never will.

Before religion became dogmatic and an institution infiltrated and corrupted by other institutions with selfish reasons, it was a way for people to find peace, connection and belonging through the church and community. It was a way to build and nurture the true values of family, togetherness, love, and the virtues of compassion, patience, trust and kindness. It was a helping hand for people to build their strong spiritual cores. Jesus Christ himself wasn’t even necessarily about the religion itself, he was a spiritual master, energy master and a real healer. He was a teacher of love, he awakened the human heart and purified the spirit; and in many ways, he spiritualized the earth in an esoteric process known as the etherization of the blood. Nowadays, people look to social media to find belonging and connection through likes, followers and filters; they look for temporary soothings as they continue to disguise their true selves, and they eventually become more separated and disconnected from their own hearts and spirits. So when we find people and/or organizations that really support people and contribute to their wellbeing, we should support them as well. This is the human thing to do.

For those of you who don’t know I was baptised as Greek Orthodox as a child. The Greek Orthodox church is quite different from the Catholic and other parts of Christianity; in many ways, it is very inclusive, open, and I’d say it is closer to Christian Mysticism. The Greek Orthodox popes are allowed to marry and they have their own family lives outside of the church, which is not the case for the Catholic. Greek Orthodox also do not consider the pope as infallible i.e. he does not have full control or higher power over all churches. Greek Orthodox also do not consider Mother Mary to be “free of sin” – she was a woman, a human, and she is recognized as Christ’s mother because of her righteous life full of kindness and humility, which in a way inspires us to lead more spiritual lives rather than thinking we must be complete saints to be good people. Greek Orthodox also do not make alterations to the original sacred texts because they want to avoid the so-called “Doctrinal Development”. In this way, they want to avoid false doctrines, not make Christianity dogmatic, and they stay true to Jesus’s words when he warned humanity to be cautious of doctrines. In general, Greek Orthodox remains one of the more mystical religions dependent on spiritual practices, in comparison to other forms of Christianity such as Catholicism which tend to be more legalistic and dependent on intellectual speculation and interpretations. This is not to say one is better than another, but I mention it because a lot of people make assumptions about religions without actually learning about them first.

When people ask me whether I am religious or spiritual, my answer is: spiritual. I don’t need to go to church regularly, in fact I go very rarely, because I carry the church in my heart. I don’t cite the Bible, because I carry the words of love in my heart. To be truly spiritual, in my humble opinion, means to be open and inclusive – it means to have no divisions and separations. Just as much as I love Christian mysticism, I also love to learn and expand my inner world with other belief systems from around the world. I enjoy visiting spiritual temples, churches, cathedrals and ashrams and all else, because I find that it enriches me. And for the God that I personally believe in – I know he sees no separations in these, because it is about love, it always was only about love.

Back to our carols sing-along event. There is something very special about the lyrics of carols, just as those in the Psalms, Bible and any sacred texts, because they really are sacred – and filled and ingrained with so much divine energy and love, and a power that had been building for centuries because of all the other times so many other people cited it also. This is why when you speak prayer and cite from these texts, it is so powerful and changes your entire energy and aura.

Choirs, well they sound angelic. And in this sing along, there wasn’t a choir, it was the people in the church singing, none of whom were professional singers – and this just moved me even more because to my ears it still sounded angelic. To see people rejoice together, all different races, with kindness and hope in their voices. They sang hope. They sang heart. They sang togetherness.

So tonight I wanted to share with you three of the carols – whether you whisper it, speak it or sing it along on Youtube – feel it. Let these words of light remind you of the love you are, of the love we all are, and of the good that still blesses us in our world. Sometimes we forget the sacred because we forget what it looks like and feels like. Now is the time to remember. And if there is one thing to believe in, to have faith in – may it be love, may it be family, may it be kindness. Let that be your guiding star.

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night, all is calm all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night, Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing alleluia
Christ the Saviour is born, Christ the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from the holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime (Huron Carol)
(This is originally an Indigenous carol, and the original lyrics were written in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people which is called Wyandot (Huron) language.)

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead.
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wondering hunters heard the hymn:
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis Gloria.”

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round.
And as the hunter braves drew nigh
The angel song rang loud and high:
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis Gloria.”

O children of the forest tree, beloved of Manitou
The holy child of earth and heaven is born today for you.
Come, kneel before the radiant boy, who brings you beauty,
peace and joy,
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis Gloria.”

(“Manitou” is the spiritual and fundamental life force that is object of deep reverence to many Native American tribes.)

Let there be peace on earth

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth,
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father, brother all are we,
Let me walk with my brother, in peace and harmony.

Let there be peace on earth, let this be the moment now,
With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow:
To take each moment, and live each moment
In peace eternally,
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

May you and yours be blessed.

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