Matushka Olga To Be Glorified A Saint

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The Proclamation of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America on the Glorification of the Righteous Servant of God Matushka Olga

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

To the beloved Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America

God is wondrous in His Saints

November 8, 2023
Chicago, IL

The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America has heard the petition of The Right Reverend ALEXEI, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska, expressed in his November 2, 2023 letter to His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, concerning the glorification of the Servant of God, the Righteous Matushka Olga.

In this letter, His Grace Bishop ALEXEI states: “I am writing to Your Beatitude with respect to the departed handmaiden of God and faithful Orthodox Christian, Matushka Olga Nicholai of Kwethluk, known by the pious peoples of the Kuskokwim as Arrsamquq.  Her humility, her generosity, her piety, her patience, and her selfless love for God and neighbor were well-known in the Kuskokwim villages during her earthly life.  Her care for comforting the suffering and the grieving has also been revealed after her life by grace-filled manifestations to the faithful throughout not only Alaska, but all of North America.  The first peoples of Alaska are convinced of her sanctity and the great efficacy of her prayers.  For this reason, after prayerful consideration, I, Alexei, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska, am hereby making the formal request to Your Beatitude as the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America to begin the process that, if it be in accord with God’s will, would lead to her glorification.”

The Holy Synod, having prayerfully reflected upon this petition and having observed and acknowledged the sincere devotion among the faithful of Alaska and beyond, has unanimously determined that the time for the glorification of Matushka Olga has arrived, fulfilling the hopes and prayers of pious Orthodox Christians throughout Alaska and the entire world.

THEREFORE, meeting in Solemn Assembly in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chicago, Illinois, under the Presidency of The Most Blessed TIKHON, Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of All America and Canada, We, the Members of The Holy Synod of The Orthodox Church in America, do hereby decide and decree that the ever-memorable Servant of God MATUSHKA OLGA be numbered among the saints.  With one mind and one heart, we also resolve that her honorable remains be considered as holy relics; that a special service be composed in her honor; that her feast be celebrated on November 10 (October 28, old style) on the Feast of All Saints of North America, the Second Sunday after Pentecost; that holy icons be prepared to honor the newly-glorified saint in accordance with the Canons of the Sacred Ecumenical and Regional Councils; that her life be published for the edification of the Faithful, that the name of the new saint be communicated to the Primates of all Sister Churches for inclusion in their calendars; and that the date and location of the Rite of Glorification be communicated to the Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of our Church in due time.

FURTHER, we entrust to the Canonization Commission of The Orthodox Church in America, under the Chairmanship of The Most Reverend DANIEL, Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest, with the honorable task of assisting The Right Reverend ALEXEI, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska, in preparing for the celebration of the glorification by providing an authorized Life of Matushka Olga for the education and edification of the Faithful, with overseeing the painting of holy icons of her, in keeping with the canonical iconographical tradition of the Church, with the composition of liturgical texts to be sung at the Divine Services in which she will be commemorated, and with assisting in the uncovering and recognition of her holy relics, and in promoting her veneration among all the Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of our Church.

We call upon the faithful to remember Matushka Olga at Memorial Services or Litanies for the Departed when appropriate until the day of her glorification.

Through the prayers of Matushka Olga and of all the Saints who have shone forth in North America, may the Lord grant His mercies and blessings to all who seek her heavenly intercession with faith and love.  Amen.

Holy Mother Olga, pray to God for us!

Given at Holy Trinity Cathedral, this 8th day of November, in the Year of Our Lord, 2023.

PROCLAMATION OF THE HOLY SYNOD OF BISHOPS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA ON THE GLORIFICATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS SERVANT OF GOD MATUSHKA OLGA

The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America.

  • TIKHON, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada
  • NATHANIEL, Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate
  • BENJAMIN, Archbishop of San Francisco and the West
  • MARK, Archbishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania
  • ALEJO, Archbishop of Mexico City and Mexico
  • MELCHISEDEK, Archbishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
  • IRENEE, Archbishop of Ottawa and the Archdiocese of Canada
  • MICHAEL, Archbishop of New York and New Jersey
  • ALEXANDER, Archbishop of Dallas, the South and the Bulgarian Diocese
  • DANIEL, Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest
  • ALEXEI, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska
  • NIKODHIM, Bishop of Boston and the Albanian Archdiocese

November 15-Begins The Nativity Fast

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Nativity Fast Begins

Sundays of Advent: Planting the Seeds for the New Covenant
Fr. Michael Massouh
​Published in the 2020 November/December edition of The WORD Magazine

Unlike Great Lent, the Advent Season stands without additional weekday services or Sunday remembrances that would help us keep the fast for the forty days and help prepare us for Christ’s birth. I have always been disturbed that the Church has not responded to this lacuna, that is, until this year.

When I read Archimandrite Vassilios Papavasiliou’s Meditations for Advent: Preparing for Christ’s Birth,​ I began to see connections I had missed. He brings together readings from Scripture, including the Odes of the Old Testament, the seasonal troparia from the Compline Service and Vespers, writings from the Fathers, and other sources, to flesh out the Nativity Season. As I began to prepare Sunday Sermons, too, I discovered that the Epistle and Gospel readings focus on one of the reasons Christ came to dwell among us. We are all familiar with His coming to defeat death and the Devil, and to re-open the Gates of Paradise for us. He also came to inaugurate the New Covenant, and the readings of the Sundays of Advent make this quite clear.

In these readings, we are reminded that Christ publicly challenged the Jewish leadership’s focus on the Law – the Old Covenant. As He says at one point, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13). Throughout His public ministry, He purposefully performs acts that upset them to the point – as we know – that they ultimately seek His crucifixion.

The Epistle readings vary from year to year, but usually for the first Sunday of Advent it is from St Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, in which he warns them that the Jewish leadership “would compel you to be circumcised,” even though “not even those who are circumcised keep the law” (Galatians 6:12-13). So, why keep the Law? Christ is preparing them and us for something new.

On the second Sunday, St Paul writes to the Ephesians “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the tyranny of men” (Ephesians 4:14). Rather, we should stand fast to Christ’s teachings. The men of tyranny to which Paul refers were the Jewish leaders who adhered strictly to the Law as they interpreted it.

The Gospel lessons for the first two Sundays of Advent appear to have no relation to the season. The first is the story of the Foolish Rich Man, who would tear down his barns and build bigger ones to house the windfall that came from God (Luke 12:16-21). The second deals with the Rich Young Man seeking eternal life (Luke 18:18-27). Christ calls the first one a “fool” and depicts God asking for his soul that very night. He tells the second one to sell all his possessions, give the money to the poor, and then come and follow Him. Christ’s message to them and to us is to use one’s wealth to help others, and not to spend it exclusively for one’s own benefit. We are to do the same with the gifts God has given us, as did the early Christians. We learn in the Book of Acts that they pooled their resources and gave to others as they had need (Acts 2:42-47). Almsgiving is one of the things we do during a fast.

On the third Sunday of Advent we read again from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians that Christ came to break down “the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments [that is, the Torah], so as to create in Himself one new man from the two [Gentile and Jew], thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14). Clearly, Paul endorses Christ’s replacing the “law of commandments” which applied exclusively to the Jews, and the bestowal of God’s grace on all humanity. Further, he states that Christ came first to reconcile the estranged Jews to God and then to reconcile the Jews to the Gentiles, so that there is no longer Jew nor Greek, master nor slave, male nor female, because all are one under Jesus Christ, making clear that the New Covenant is for everyone (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).

The fourth Sunday’s reading from Ephesians emphasizes the message of the New Covenant that “There is one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” [Eph 4:4-6] In other words, we are all one in Jesus Christ. No one is superior to another, no one is shunted aside, no one is without God’s grace. This is a consequence of the New Covenant.

The theme of establishing a New Covenant continues throughout Advent. On the third Sunday we read in Luke’s gospel about Jesus healing on the Sabbath a woman bent over for eighteen years. Here is one example of Jesus confronting the leaders of a synagogue directly who myopically hold to the Old Testament Laws. Indeed, they are indignant that anyone should do “work” on the Sabbath, and proclaim that there are six days to do work; the Sabbath is a day of rest. Jesus answers them forcefully. “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound – think of it – for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” His reply put “all His adversaries to shame; and the multitude rejoiced.” [Luke 13:10-17]

Clearly, we are reminded during the Advent season that Jesus challenged the Old Covenant many times because He was laying the foundation for the New.

The fourth Sunday’s Gospel from Luke tells the story of Jesus at a home of a Pharisee who had invited Him to dine (14:16-24). Jesus tells a parable that cannot be misunderstood. A certain man gave a great supper and invited many. But one after the other made excuses for not attending: one bought a piece of land, one bought five yoke of oxen, another just got married. When the man’s servant reported these things to the master, the master became angry and told the servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.” When this was done there was still room for more. “Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’” In this parable, those invited were the Chosen People, but some of them refused to attend. Jesus reminded the Jewish leaders that the Chosen People had not lived up to their end of the covenant that God had made with them. Now God would find others to come into His Kingdom. In Matthew’s account of this parable Christ’s message was very clear to the Pharisees who had gathered to dine with Him: they then “went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk” (Matthew 22:1-15). (See also the Pharisee’s reaction when He dined with them at another time, in Luke 11:53-54.)

God’s attempt to reach His chosen people over the centuries, by sending prophets to admonish them and to remind them of God’s blessings, had not worked. By the time of the Prophet Jeremiah about the Seventh Century, B.C., God decided to establish a New Covenant, as He told Jeremiah:

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34). 

God made it clear to Jeremiah that the New Covenant He would inaugurate would supersede the Old. The Old would be replaced and no longer apply. Paul stresses this point in Galatians: “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But, after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24-25).

On the Sunday before the Nativity we read the human genealogy of Jesus Christ, to show that Jesus had an earthly ancestry. He did not appear out of nowhere. He came to fulfill the promise to Abraham, to David, and to others. “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise. God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrew 11:39-41). The promise was that we should see the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ, the one we are preparing to meet at His Nativity.

Paul reminds us that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived before the Law was handed down to Moses. We can return to the time of the Patriarchs: Noah, Melchizedek, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The New Covenant ushered in a new world; one that we are struggling to experience.

The Scriptural readings for the Nativity season therefore do have a focus. They orient us to one of the reasons God gave His only begotten Son, that is, to establish a New Covenant between Himself and all those who would believe in His Son, from every tribe and nation. We will all know Him in our hearts if we allow Him to enter.

What a gift! What a beneficent God! What a joy to be connected to the Immortal One!

Sadly, there are as yet no weekday services during Advent. We do, however, possess these Scriptural readings that give us one of the reasons for Christ’s Nativity.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!​

Here are the basic guidelines for the fast.

Please remember that the Fast of the Holy Nativity or the Advent Fast will commence on November 15 and continue until the Feast (December 25). This fasting period is ordained by the Holy Church in order to prepare for the Holy Nativity of Our Lord.

The particulars of the fast are as follows: During the first 28 days of the Fast, from November 15 to December 13 all meat products and dairy products are forbidden.

On Wednesdays and Fridays, of course, olive oil, wine, all alcoholic beverages and fish are also forbidden as on most Wednesdays and Fridays during the year.

Please remember to increase your prayer life, read more scripture and spiritual books, especially the lives of the saints. A little less television, no anger, no gossip, no laziness, and let’s try to avoid the pre-Christmas parties. If we prepare in this way, God will bless us, and we will find the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord to be far more spiritually rewarding than ever before.

 

The Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross

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Join us on Wednesday at 6 pm for Vespers for The Cross and on Thursday at 9 am

for the Divine Liturgy for this glorious feast.

The pagan Roman Emperors tried to obliterate the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and rose from the dead, so that they would be forgotten. Emperor Hadrian (117-138) ordered that Golgotha and the Lord’s Sepulchre be buried, and that a temple in honor of the pagan “goddess” Venus and a statue of Jupiter be placed there.

Pagans gathered at this place and offered sacrifice to idols. Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the Christian holy places, the Sepulchre of the Lord, and the Life-giving Cross, were discovered and opened for veneration. This took place under Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) after his victory over Maxentius (in 312), who ruled the Western part of the Roman Empire, and over Licinius, the ruler of its Eastern part. In the year 323 Constantine became the sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire.

In 313 Saint Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, by which Christianity was legalized and persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the Empire were stopped. Although Licinius had signed the Edict of Milan in order to oblige Constantine, he continued his cruel persecutions against Christians. Only after his conclusive defeat did the Edict of Milan extend also to the Eastern part of the Empire. The Holy Equal of the Apostles Emperor Constantine, triumphing over his enemies in three wars, with God’s assistance, had seen the Sign of the Cross in the heavens. Written beneath were the words: “By this you shall conquer.”

Ardently desiring to find the Cross upon which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Saint Constantine sent his mother, the pious Empress Helen (May 21), to Jerusalem, providing her with a letter to Saint Makarios, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Saint Helen journeyed to the holy places connected with the earthly life of the Savior, building more than 80 churches, at Bethlehem the birthplace of Christ, and on the Mount of Olives where the Lord ascended to Heaven, and at Gethsemane where the Savior prayed before His sufferings, and where the Mother of God was buried after her Dormition.

Although the holy Empress Helen was no longer young, she set about completing the task with enthusiasm. In her search for the Life-giving Cross, she questioned both Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search remained unsuccessful. Finally, she was directed to a certain elderly Jew named Jude who stated that the Cross was buried beneath the temple of Venus. They demolished the pagan temple and, after praying, they began to excavate the ground. Soon the Lord’s Tomb was uncovered. Not far from it were three crosses, and a board with the inscription ordered by Pilate, and four nails which had pierced the Lord’s Body (March 6).

In order to discover on which of the three crosses the Savior had been crucified, Patriarch Makarios alternately touched the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord touched the dead man, he was restored to life. After witnessing the raising of the dead man, everyone was convinced that the Life-giving Cross had been found.

Christians came in a huge crowds to venerate the Holy Cross, beseeching Saint Makarios to lift the Cross, so that those far off could see it. Then the Patriarch and other spiritual leaders lifted the Holy Cross, and the people prostrated themselves before the Honorable Wood, saying “Lord have mercy.” This solemn event occurred in the year 326.

During the discovery of the Life-giving Cross another miracle took place: a woman who was close to death was healed by the shadow of the Holy Cross. The elderly Jude (October 28) and other Jews believed in Christ and were baptized. Jude was given the name Kyriakos, and later he was consecrated as the Bishop of Jerusalem. He suffered a martyr’s death for Christ during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363).

Saint Helen took part of the Life-giving Wood and nails with her to Constantinople. Saint Constantine ordered a majestic and spacious church to built at Jerusalem in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, also including under its roof the Life-giving Tomb of the Lord and Golgotha. The church was built in ten years. Saint Helen did not survive until the dedication of the church, she reposed in the year 327. The church was consecrated on September 13, 335. On the following day, September 14, the festal celebration of the Exaltation of the Honorable and Life-giving Cross was established.

Another event connected to the Cross of the Lord is remembered also on this day: its return to Jerusalem from Persia after a fourteen year captivity. During the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Phokas (602-610) the Persian king Khozróēs II attacked Constantinople defeated the Greek army, plundered Jerusalem, capturing both the Life-giving Cross of the Lord and the Holy Patriarch Zachariah (609-633).

The Cross remained in Persia for fourteen years, and only under Emperor Herakleios (610-641), who defeated Khozróēs and concluded peace with his successor and son Syroes, was the Lord’s Cross returned to the Christians.

With great solemnity the Life-giving Cross was transferred to Jerusalem. Emperor Herakleios, wearing a crown and his royal purple garments carried the Cross of Christ. The Emperor was accompanied by Patriarch Zachariah. At the gates by which they ascended Golgotha, the Emperor stopped suddenly and was unable to proceed. The holy Patriarch explained to the Emperor that an Angel of the Lord was blocking his way. Herakleios was told to remove his royal trappings and to walk barefoot, since He Who bore the Cross for the salvation of the world had made His way to Golgotha in all humility. Then Herakleios donned plain clothes, and without further hindrance, carried the Cross of Christ into the church.

In a sermon on the Exaltation of the Cross, Saint Andrew of Crete (July 4) says: “The Cross is exalted, and everything true is gathered together, the Cross is exalted, and the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast.”

The Nativity of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary

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Thursday 6 pm-Great Vespers for the Feast with Litia

Friday      9 am-Divine Liturgy for The Nativity of The Theotokos

Please join us!

The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary: The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born at a time when people had reached such a degree of moral decay that it seemed altogether impossible to restore them. People often said that God must come into the world to restore faith and not permit the ruin of mankind.

The Son of God chose to take on human nature for the salvation of mankind, and chose as His Mother the All-Pure Virgin Mary, who alone was worthy to give birth to the Source of purity and holiness.

The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary is celebrated by the Church as a day of universal joy. Within the context of the Old and the New Testaments, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was born on this radiant day, having been chosen before the ages by Divine Providence to bring about the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. She is revealed as the Mother of the Savior of the World, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born in the small city of Galilee, Nazareth. Her parents were Righteous Joachim of the tribe of the Prophet-King David, and Anna from the tribe of the First Priest Aaron. The couple was without child, since Saint Anna was barren.

Having reached old age, Joachim and Anna did not lose hope in God’s mercy. They had strong faith that for God everything is possible, and that He would be able to overcome the barrenness of Anna even in her old age, as He had once overcame the barrenness of Sarah, spouse of the Patriarch Abraham. Saints Joachim and Anna vowed to dedicate the child which the Lord might give them, to the service of God in the Temple.

Childlessness was considered among the Hebrew nation as a Divine punishment for sin, and therefore the righteous Saints Joachim and Anna had to endure abuse from their own countrymen. On one of the feastdays at the Temple in Jerusalem the elderly Joachim brought his sacrifice to offer to God, but the High Priest would not accept it, considering him to be unworthy since he was childless.

Saint Joachim in deep grief went into the wilderness, and there he prayed with tears to the Lord for a child. Saint Anna wept bitterly when she learned what had happened at the Jerusalem Temple. Never once did she complain against the Lord, but rather she prayed to ask God’s mercy on her family.

The Lord fulfilled her petitions when the pious couple had attained to extreme old age and prepared themselves by virtuous life for a sublime calling: to be the parents of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the future Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Archangel Gabriel brought Joachim and Anna the joyous message that their prayers were heard by God, and of them would be born a most blessed daughter Mary, through Whom would come the Salvation of all the World.

The Most Holy Virgin Mary surpassed in purity and virtue not only all mankind, but also the angels. She was manifest as the living Temple of God, so the Church sings in its festal hymns: “the East Gate… bringing Christ into the world for the salvation of our souls” (2nd Stikhera on “Lord, I Have Cried”, Tone 6).

The Nativity of the Theotokos marks the change of the times when the great and comforting promises of God for the salvation of the human race from slavery to the devil are about to be fulfilled. This event has brought to earth the grace of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of Truth, piety, virtue and everlasting life. The Theotokos is revealed to all of us by grace as a merciful Intercessor and Mother, to Whom we have recourse with filial devotion.

The Dormition of The Most Holy Theotokos-Aug. 15

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Join us at 9 am for Divine Liturgy on August 15.

After the Ascension of the Lord, the Mother of God remained in the care of the Apostle John the Theologian, and during his journeys She lived at the home of his parents, near the Mount of Olives. She was a source of consolation and edification both for the Apostles and for all the believers. She told them about miraculous events: the Annunciation, the seedless and undefiled Conception of Christ born of Her, about His early childhood, and about His earthly life. Like the Apostles, She helped plant and strengthen the Christian Church by Her presence, Her discourse and Her prayers.

The reverence of the Apostles for the Most Holy Virgin was extraordinary. After the receiving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles remained at Jerusalem for about ten years attending to the salvation of the Jews, and wanting to see the Mother of God and hear Her holy words. Many of the newly-enlightened in the Faith even came from faraway lands to Jerusalem, to see and to hear the All-Pure Mother of God.

In 43, during the persecution initiated by King Herod against the Church, the Most Holy Virgin and the Apostle John the Theologian withdrew to Ephesus. The preaching of the Gospel there had fallen to the Apostle John the Theologian. The Mother of God was on Cyprus with St Lazarus the Four-Days-Dead, where he was bishop. She was also on Mount Athos. St Stephen of the Holy Mountain says that the Mother of God prophetically spoke of it: “Let this place be my lot, given to me by my Son and my God. I will be the Patroness of this place and intercede with God for it.”

The respect of Christians for the Mother of God was so great that they preserved what they could about Her life, what they could take note of concerning Her sayings and deeds, and they even passed down to us a description of Her outward appearance.

According to Tradition, based on the words of Hieromartyrs Dionysius the Areopagite, Ignatius the God-Bearer, St. Ambrose of Milan had occasion to write in his work “On Virgins” concerning the Mother of God: “She was a Virgin not only in body, but also in soul, humble of heart, circumspect in word, wise in mind, not overly given to speaking, a lover of reading and of work, and prudent in speech. Her rule of life was to offend no one, to intend good for everyone, to respect the aged, not envy others, avoid bragging, be healthy of mind, and to love virtue.”

When did She ever hurl the least insult in the face of Her parents? When was She at discord with Her kin? When did She ever puff up with pride before a modest person, or laugh at the weak, or shun the destitute? With Her there was nothing of glaring eyes, nothing of unseemly words, nor of improper conduct. She was modest in the movement of Her body, Her step was quiet, and Her voice straightforward; so that Her face was an expression of soul. She was the personification of purity.

All Her days She was concerned with fasting. She slept only when necessary, and even then, when Her body was at rest, She was still alert in spirit, repeating in Her dreams what She had read, or the implementation of proposed intentions, or those planned yet anew. She was out of Her house only for church, and then only in the company of relatives. Otherwise, She seldom appeared outside Her house in the company of others, and She was Her own best overseer. Others could protect Her only in body, but She Herself guarded Her character.”

According to Tradition, from the compiler of Church history Nicephorus Callistus, the Mother of God “was of average stature, or as others suggest, slightly more than average; Her hair golden in appearance; Her eyes bright with pupils like shiny olives; Her eyebrows strong in character and moderately dark, Her nose pronounced and Her mouth vibrant bespeaking sweet speech; Her face was neither round nor angular, but somewhat oblong; the palm of Her hands and fingers were longish…

In conversation with others She preserved decorum, neither becoming silly nor agitated, and indeed especially never angry; without artifice, and direct, She was not overly concerned about Herself, and far from pampering Herself, She was distinctly full of humility. Regarding the clothing which She wore, She was satisfied to have natural colors, which even now is evidenced by Her holy head-covering. Suffice it to say, a special grace attended all Her actions.”

The circumstances of the Dormition of the Mother of God were known in the Orthodox Church from apostolic times. In the first century, Hieromartyr Dionysius the Areopagite wrote about Her “Falling-Asleep.” In the second century, the account of the bodily ascent of the Most Holy Virgin Mary to Heaven is found in the works of Meliton, Bishop of Sardis. In the fourth century, St. Epiphanius of Cyprus refers to the “Falling Asleep” of the Mother of God. In the fifth century, St. Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem, told Byzantine Empress Pulcheria: “Although there is no account of the circumstances of Her death in Holy Scripture, we know about them from the most ancient and credible Tradition.” This tradition was gathered and expounded in the Church History of Nicephorus Callistus during the fourteenth century.

At the time of Her blessed Falling Asleep, the Most Holy Virgin Mary was again at Jerusalem. Her fame as the Mother of God had already spread and had aroused many of the envious and the spiteful against Her. They wanted to make attempts on Her life; but God preserved Her from enemies.

Day and night She spent her time in prayer. The Most Holy Theotokos went often to the Holy Sepulcher of the Lord, and offered up fervent prayer. More than once, enemies of the Savior sought to hinder Her from visiting this holy place, and they asked the High Priest for a guard to watch over the Grave of the Lord. The Holy Virgin continued to pray right in front of them, yet unseen by anyone.

In one such visit to Golgotha, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Her and announced Her approaching departure from this life to eternal life. In pledge of this, the Archangel gave Her a palm branch. With these heavenly tidings the Mother of God returned to Bethlehem with the three girls attending Her (Sepphora, Abigail, and Jael). She summoned Righteous Joseph of Arimathea and the other disciples of the Lord, and told them of Her impending Repose.

The Most Holy Virgin also prayed that the Lord would have the Apostle John come to Her. The Holy Spirit transported him from Ephesus, setting him in that very place where the Mother of God lay. After the prayer, the Most Holy Virgin offered incense, and John heard a voice from Heaven, closing Her prayer with the word “Amen.” The Mother of God took it that the voice meant the speedy arrival of the Apostles and the Disciples and the holy Bodiless Powers.

The faithful, whose number by then was impossible to count, gathered together, wrote St. John of Damascus, like clouds and eagles, to listen to the Mother of God. Seeing one another, the Disciples rejoiced, but in their confusion they asked each other why the Lord had gathered them together in one place. St. John the Theologian, greeting them with tears of joy, said that the time of the Virgin’s repose was at hand.

Going in to the Mother of God, they beheld Her lying upon the bed, and filled with spiritual joy. The Disciples greeted Her, and they told her how they had been carried miraculously from their places of preaching. The Most Holy Virgin Mary glorified God, because He had heard Her prayer and fulfilled Her heart’s desire, and She began speaking about Her imminent end.

During this conversation the Apostle Paul also appeared in a miraculous manner together with his disciples Dionysius the Areopagite, St. Hierotheus, St.Timothy and others of the Seventy Apostles. The Holy Spirit had gathered them all together so that they might be granted the blessing of the All-Pure Virgin Mary, and more fittingly to see to the burial of the Mother of the Lord. She called each of them to Herself by name, She blessed them and extolled them for their faith and the hardships they endured in preaching the Gospel of Christ. To each She wished eternal bliss, and prayed with them for the peace and welfare of the whole world.

Then came the third hour (9 A.M.), when the Dormition of the Mother of God was to occur. A number of candles were burning. The holy Disciples surrounded her beautifully adorned bed, offering praise to God. She prayed in anticipation of Her demise and of the arrival of Her longed-for Son and Lord. Suddenly, the inexpressible Light of Divine Glory shone forth, before which the blazing candles paled in comparison. All who saw it were frightened. Descending from Heaven was Christ, the King of Glory, surrounded by hosts of Angels and Archangels and other Heavenly Powers, together with the souls of the Forefathers and the Prophets, who had prophesied in ages past concerning the Most Holy Virgin Mary.

Seeing Her Son, the Mother of God exclaimed: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God My Savior, for He hath regarded the low estate of His Handmaiden” (Luke 1:46-48) and rose from Her bed to meet the Lord, She bowed down to Him, and the Lord bid Her enter into Life Eternal. Without any bodily suffering, as though in a happy sleep, the Most Holy Virgin Mary gave Her soul into the hands of Her Son and God.

A joyous angelic song then began. Accompanying the pure soul of the God-betrothed and with reverent awe for the Queen of Heaven, the angels exclaimed: “Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art Thou among women! For lo, the Queen, God’s Maiden comes, lift up the gates, and with the Ever-Existing One, take up the Mother of Light; for through Her salvation has come to all the human race. It is impossible to gaze upon Her, and it is impossible to render Her due honor” (Stikherion on “Lord, I Have Cried”). The Heavenly gates were raised, and meeting the soul of the Most Holy Mother of God, the Cherubim and the Seraphim glorified Her with joy. The face of the Mother of God was radiant with the glory of Divine virginity, and from Her body there came a sweet fragrance.

Miraculous was the life of the All-Pure Virgin, and wondrous was Her Repose, as the Holy Church sings: “In Thee, O Queen, the God of all hath given thee as thy portion the things that are above nature. Just as in the Birth-Giving He did preserve Thine virginity, so also in the grave He did preserve Thy body from decay” (Canon 1, Ode 6, Troparion 1).

Kissing the all-pure body with reverence and in awe, the Disciples in turn were blessed by it and filled with grace and spiritual joy. Through the great glorification of the Most Holy Theotokos, the almighty power of God healed the sick, who with faith and love touched the holy bed.

Bewailing their separation from the Mother of God, the Apostles prepared to bury Her all-pure body. The holy Apostles Peter, Paul, James and others of the Twelve Apostles carried the funeral bier upon their shoulders, and upon it lay the body of the Ever-Virgin Mary. St. John the Theologian went at the head with the resplendent palm-branch from Paradise. The other saints and a multitude of the faithful accompanied the funeral bier with candles and censers, singing sacred songs. This solemn procession went from Sion through Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane.

With the start of the procession there suddenly appeared over the all-pure body of the Mother of God and all those accompanying Her a resplendent circular cloud, like a crown. There was heard the singing of the Heavenly Powers, glorifying the Mother of God, which echoed that of the worldly voices. This circle of Heavenly singers and radiance accompanied the procession to the very place of burial.

Unbelieving inhabitants of Jerusalem, taken aback by the extraordinarily grand funeral procession and vexed at the honor accorded the Mother of Jesus, complained of this to the High Priest and scribes. Burning with envy and vengefulness toward everything that reminded them of Christ, they sent their own servants to disrupt the procession and to set the body of the Mother of God afire.

An angry crowd and soldiers set off against the Christians, but the circular cloud accompanying the procession descended and surrounded them like a wall. The pursuers heard the footsteps and the singing, but could not see any of those accompanying the procession. Indeed, many of them were struck blind.

The Jewish priest Athonios, out of spite and hatred for the Mother of Jesus of Nazareth, wanted to topple the funeral bier on which lay the body of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, but an angel of God invisibly cut off his hands, which had touched the bier. Seeing such a wonder, Athonios repented and with faith confessed the majesty of the Mother of God. He received healing and joined the crowd accompanying the body of the Mother of God, and he became a zealous follower of Christ.

When the procession reached the Garden of Gethsemane, amidst the weeping and the wailing began the last kiss to the all-pure body. Only towards evening were the Apostles able to place it in the tomb and seal the entrance to the cave with a large stone.

For three days they did not depart from the place of burial, praying and chanting Psalms. Through the wise providence of God, the Apostle Thomas was not present at the burial of the Mother of God. Arriving late on the third day at Gethsemane, he lay down at the tomb and with bitter tears asked that he might be permitted to look once more upon the Mother of God and bid her farewell. The Apostles out of heartfelt pity for him decided to open the grave and give him the comfort of venerating the holy relics of the Ever-Virgin Mary. Having opened the grave, they found in it only the grave wrappings and were thus convinced of the bodily ascent of the Most Holy Virgin Mary to Heaven.

On the evening of the same day, when the Apostles had gathered at a house to strengthen themselves with food, the Mother of God appeared to them and said: “Rejoice! I am with you all the days of your lives.” This so gladdened the Apostles and everyone with them, that they took a portion of the bread, set aside at the meal in memory of the Savior (“the Lord’s Portion”), and they exclaimed : “Most Holy Theotokos, save us”. (This marks the beginning of the rite of offering up the “Panagia” (“All-Holy”), a portion of bread in honor of the Mother of God, which is done at monasteries to the present day).

The sash of the Mother of God, and Her holy garb, preserved with reverence and distributed over the face of the earth in pieces, have worked miracles both in the past and at present. Her numerous icons pour forth signs and healings, and Her holy body, taken up to Heaven, bears witness to our own future life there. Her body was not left to the vicissitudes of the transitory world, but was incomparably exalted by its glorious ascent to Heaven.

The Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is celebrated with special solemnity at Gethsemane, the place of Her burial. Nowhere else is there such sorrow of heart at the separation from the Mother of God, and nowhere else such joy, because of Her intercession for the world.

The holy city of Jerusalem is separated from the Mount of Olives by the valley of Kedron on Josaphat. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane, where olive trees bear fruit even now.

The holy Ancestor-of-God Joachim had himself reposed at 80 years of age, several years after the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. St. Anna, having been left a widow, moved from Nazareth to Jerusalem, and lived near the Temple. At Jerusalem she bought two pieces of property: the first at the gates of Gethsemane, and the second in the valley of Josaphat. At the second locale she built a tomb for the members of her family, and where she herself was buried with Joachim. It was there in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Savior often prayed with His disciples.

The most-pure body of the Mother of God was buried in the family tomb. Christians honored the sepulcher of the Mother of God, and they built a church on this spot. Within the church was preserved the precious funeral cloth, which covered Her all-pure and fragrant body.

In the fifth century, Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem testified before Emperor Marcian as to the authenticity of the tradition about the miraculous ascent of the Mother of God to Heaven, and he sent to Empress Pulcheria the grave wrappings of the Mother of God from Her tomb. Pulcheria then placed these grave-wrappings within the Blachernae church.

Accounts have been preserved, that at the end of the seventh century a church had been built atop the underground Church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, and that from its high bell-tower could be seen the dome of the Church of the Resurrection of the Lord. Traces of this church are no longer to be seen. In the ninth century near the subterranean Gethsemane Church a monastery was built, in which more than 30 monks struggled.

In 1009, great destruction was done to the Church by the despoiler of the holy places, Hakim. Radical changes, the traces of which remain at present, also took place under the crusaders in 1130. During the eleventh to twelfth centuries the piece of excavated stone, at which the Savior had prayed on the night of His betrayal disappeared from Jerusalem. This piece of stone had been in the Gethsemane basilica from the sixth century.

But in spite of the destruction and the changes, the overall original cruciform (cross-shaped) plan of the church has been preserved. At the entrance to the church along the sides of the iron gates stand four marble columns. To enter the church, it is necessary to go down a stairway of 48 steps. At the 23rd step on the right side is a chapel in honor of the holy Ancestors-of-God Joachim and Anna together with their graves, and on the left side opposite, the chapel of St. Joseph the Betrothed with his grave. The right chapel belongs to the Orthodox Church, and the left to the Armenian Church (since 1814).

The Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos has the following dimensions: in length it is 48 arshin, and in breadth 8 arshin [1 arshin = 28 inches]. At an earlier time the church also had windows beside the doors. The whole temple was adorned with a multitude of lampadas and offerings. Two small entrances lead into the burial-chamber of the Mother of God. One enters through the western doors, and exits at the northern doors. The burial-chamber of the All-Pure Virgin Mary is veiled with precious curtains. The burial place was hewn out of stone in the manner of the ancient Jewish graves and is very similar to the Sepulcher of the Lord. Beyond the burial-chamber is the altar of the church, in which Divine Liturgy is celebrated each day in the Greek language.

The olive woods on the eastern and northern sides of the temple were acquired from the Turks by the Orthodox during the seventh and eighth centuries. The Catholics acquired the olive woods on the east and south sides in 1803, and the Armenians on the west side in 1821.

On August 12, at Little Gethsemane, at the second hour of the night, the head of the Gethsemane church celebrates Divine Liturgy. At the end of Liturgy, at the fourth hour of the morning, he serves a short Molieben before the resplendent burial shroud, lifts it in his hands and solemnly carries it beyond the church to Gethsemane proper where the holy sepulcher of the Mother of God is located. All the members of the Russian Spiritual Mission in Jerusalem, with the head of the Mission presiding, participate each year in the procession (called the “Litania”) with the holy burial shroud of the Mother of God..

The rite of the Burial of the Mother of God at Gethsemane begins customarily on the morning of August 14. A multitude of people with hierarchs and clergy at the head set off from the Jerusalem Patriarchate (nearby the Church of the Resurrection of Christ) in sorrowful procession. Along the narrow alley-ways of the Holy City the funeral procession makes its way to Gethsemane. Toward the front of the procession an icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is carried. Along the way, pilgrims meet the icon, kissing the image of the All-Pure Virgin Mary and lift children of various ages to the icon. After the clergy, in two rows walk the black-robed monks and nuns of the Holy City: Greeks, Romanians, Arabs, Russians. The procession, going along for about two hours, concludes with Lamentations at the Gethsemane church. In front the altar, beyond the burial chamber of the Mother of God, is a raised-up spot, upon which rests the burial shroud of the Most Holy Mother of God among fragrant flowers and myrtle, with precious coverings.

“O marvelous wonder! The Fount of Life is placed in the grave, and the grave doth become the ladder to Heaven…” Here at the grave of the All-Pure Virgin, these words strike deep with their original sense and grief is dispelled by joy: “Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee, granting the world, through Thee, great mercy!”

Numerous pilgrims, having kissed the icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, following an ancient custom, then stoop down and go beneath it.

On the day of the Leave-taking of the feast (August 23), another solemn procession is made. On the return path, the holy burial shroud is carried by clergy led by the Archimandrite of Gethsemane.

Today flowers are blessed in church, and people keep them in their homes. During times of family strife or illness, the flower petals are placed in the censer with the incense, and the whole house is censed.

Troparion (Tone 1) –

In giving birth you preserved your virginity,
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.

 

Kontakion (Tone 2) –

Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos,
Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions.
For being the Mother of Life,
She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb.

 

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

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The Feast of The Transfiguration-Sunday August 6

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The Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ is celebrated each year on August 6. Join us for this glorious feastday.

We will have Lity (special intercessory prayers and bread) at Great Vespers on Saturday Great Vespers and fully celebrate the Feast with the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, followed by the blessing of grapes.

The feast commemorates the transfiguration or metamorphosis of Christ on Mount Tabor, when our Lord appeared in His divine glory before the Apostles Peter, James, and John.

The event of the Transfiguration is recorded in three of the four Gospels:Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36. Jesus took the Apostles Peter, James, and John with Him up upon a mountain, and while they were on the mountain Jesus was transfigured. His face shone like the sun, and His garments became glistening white.

Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ, talking to Him. Peter declared how good it was for them to be there and expressed the desire to build three booths for Moses, Elijah, and Christ. This reference to the booths could imply that this occurred during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles when the Jews would be camping out in the fields for the grape harvest; for this Feast had acquired other associations in the course of its history, including the memory of the wanderings in the wilderness recorded in the Old Testament book of Exodus.

While Peter was speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice came from the cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” When the disciples heard this they fell on their faces filled with awe. Jesus came to them and told them to not be afraid. When the three looked up they saw only Jesus.

As Jesus and His disciples came down the mountain, He told them not to speak of what they had seen until He had risen from the dead.

St. Paisios The Athonite-July 12

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Join us at 6 pm for an Akathist to St. Paisios as we commemorate his nameday on Wednesday, July 12.

St. Paisios The Athonite

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain was born on July 25th, 1924 in the village of Farasa in Cappadocia of Asia Minor. Elder Paisios was baptized by St. Arsenios of Cappadocia and named Arsenios, after the Holy Father. When he was about a month old, he and his family with St. Arsenios were relocated to northern Greece as part of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey.

At age 11, not only did Saint Paisios work an apprenticeship as a carpenter, but he also read the lives of the saints, seeking silence on top of mountains and in caves to keep vigil, fast, and pray. After a childhood friend suggested Christ may not be fully God, the saint was troubled, running to the forest to prostrate and pray for hours. Christ Himself then appeared to the boy Arsenios, saying, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believes in Me—though he were dead—yet, he shall Live.” Any doubt and questioning had vanished.

At age 15, St. Paisios attempted to join a monastery in the Metropolis of Iaonnina, but was told he was too young. His yearning for the monastic life and to be in isolation grew. He served in the military of Greece at 23 years old as a radio operator, asking the Theotokos to let him suffer, be in danger, but for him not to kill anyone, and for her to make him worthy to be a monk. In return, he would restore the monastery in Stomio that had been burned down during the second World War.

After being honorably discharged on March 21st, 1950, the Elder visited Mount Athos, returned home to help his father and sisters with work, then returned back to the Holy Mountain to stay, becoming an intermediate monk at age 29. Later, he was tonsured into the Small Schema and given the name Paisios. After leaving Athos and spending three years helping to restore the Stomio monastery, as he had promised the Mother of God, he was finally able to live as a hermit on Mount Sinai in 1962 for two years. While there, he would sell wood carvings to humbly provide food for the local Bedouins.

At this time, lifelong health problems began to surface, forcing him to return back to Mount Athos. In 1964, Saint Paisios received to the Great and Angelic Schema from his spiritual father, Elder Tikhon, at the hermitage of the Holy Cross. Numerous miracles were performed by Saint Paisios through his prayers, including the healing of multiple diseases such as blindness, heart problems, and cancer. He was gifted with clairvoyance and foresight and could address a person he had just met by name, tell them their life story, and even answer their questions before they could ask them. More and more pilgrims began visiting the Holy Elder for prayers and guidance.

St. Paisios departed the Holy Mountain for the final time on October 5th, 1993 to have a procedure to treat his cancer. He endured the intense and excruciating pain without a single complaint and even took visitors and continued to give counsel. Elder Paisios received his last communion on July 11th, 1994, giving his spirit up to the Lord the following day. On January 13th, 2015, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople canonized Elder Paisios as a saint. Feast day: July 12

Pentecost Sunday-Join Us!

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On Sunday, June 4 we celebrate The Holy Feast of Pentecost.

The celebration of Pentecost begins on Saturday Vespers, at 5 pm with Old Testament prophecies and special hymns.

Sunday Matins is also special, bringing unto the teaching of the Holy Church of Christ.

Following the Divine Liturgy we will continue with The Kneeling Prayers.

This is our first kneeling since Easter. It signifies that after these fifty days of Paschal joy and fullness, of experiencing the Kingdom of God, the Church now is about to begin her pilgrimage through time and history. The three prayers are red by the celebrant as we all kneel and listen to him. In the first prayer, we bring to God our repentance, our increased appeal for forgiveness of sins, the first condition for entering into the Kingdom of God.

In the second prayer, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us, to teach us to pray and to follow the true path in the dark and difficult night of our earthly existence. Finally, in the third prayer, we remember all those who have achieved their earthly journey, but who are united with us in the eternal God of Love.

The joy of Easter has been completed and we again have to wait for the dawn of the Eternal Day. Yet, knowing our weakness, humbling ourselves by kneeling, we also know the joy and the power of the Holy Spirit who has come. We know that God is with us, that in Him is our victory.

Thus is completed the feast of Pentecost and we enter “the ordinary time” of the year. Yet, every Sunday now will be called “after Pentecost”—and this means that it is from the power and light of these fifty days that we shall receive our own power, the Divine help in our daily struggle. At Pentecost we decorate our churches with flowers and green branches—for the Church “never grows old, but is always young.” It is an evergreen, ever-living Tree of grace and life, of joy and comfort. For the Holy Spirit—“the Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life—comes and abides in us, and cleanses us from all impurity,” and fills our life with meaning, love, faith and hope.

The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord

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THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2023
Great Feast of the Ascension

Join us at 9 am

As the angels, O Savior, wondered at Thy strange elevation, and the Disciples were amazed at Thy dread rising, Thou didst ascend in glory, being God, and the gates were lifted up for Thee. Wherefore, the heavenly powers were surprised, shouting, Glory to Thy condescension, O Savior; glory to Thy reign; glory to Thine Ascension, O Thou Who alone art the Lover of mankind. – Orthros of the Feast

“The Wednesday which follows the sixth Sunday of Pascha is the day when, in liturgical terminology, we ‘take leave’ of the Paschal feast. We commemorate the last day of the physical presence of the risen Christ amongst his disciples. To honour this presence, to honour the Resurrection once more, the church on this Wednesday repeats the service for Easter Sunday in its entirety. And now we have come to the fortieth day of Pascha, the Thursday on which the Church celebrates the feast of the Ascension.​”

From The Synaxarion

On the Thursday of the sixth week of Pascha, we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.

After His Resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for forty days, appearing to His Disciples in various places. He ate, drank and conversed with them, verifying and assuring His Resurrection. On the fortieth day after Pascha, Jesus appeared to His Disciples in Jerusalem. He gave them His last commandment, to go forth and preach in His Name to all the nations. At the same time, He told them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait until they were clothed with the power from on high by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them. Having said this, Jesus led His Disciples to the Mount of Olives. Then He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And as He was speaking to them with words of fatherly blessing, Jesus departed from them and ascended into Heaven, being received by a shining cloud, indicating His divine majesty. He gradually disappeared from the sight of the Disciples as they gazed at Him.

And as they stood thus, two angels in brilliant white robes appeared to them in the form of men and said to them: Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, Who is taken from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven. In these words is fulfilled and defined the doctrine concerning the Son of God and His Word, in the Confession of Faith. After our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled all His great dispensation for us, He ascended in glory into Heaven, and sat on the right hand of God the Father. His Disciples returned from Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, rejoicing in the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

O Christ our God, Who didst ascend in glory, have mercy on us. Amen.

Holy Week Schedule

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Holy Week Schedule 2023-April 9-16

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday                     6 pm-Bridegroom Matins

Wednesday                                              6 pm-Holy Unction

Thursday                                       9 am-Last Supper Divine Liturgy

6 pm-12 Gospel readings + Cross Procession

Friday                           10 am-women of the parish decorate the bier/tomb of Christ

3 pm-Taking Christ Down From The Cross

7 pm-Lamentations Service

Saturday           10 am-dye Pascha eggs

6 pm-Divine Liturgy-Announcement of Resurrection, changing of colors

Sunday                8am-Paschal Matins and Divine Liturgy of the Resurrection; blessing of baskets, meat, eggs, and cheese    Bring food to share in your basket

12 Noon-Agape Vespers-Reading of the Gospel in many languages, sign up sheet on bulletin board

Icon Visit and Retreat-Archimandrite Sergius

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On the weekend of February 10-12, Archimandrite Fr. Sergius traveled from St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Monastery in PA with the miraculous icon of St.Anna. A large crowd sang with us and then were anointed with oil and venerated the icon, along with the relics of Sts. Joachim and Anna, plus a small piece of the Robe of The Theotokos.

On Saturday we brought the icon to Holy Spirit Orthodox Church and after greeting St. Anna, Fr. Sergius led two wonderful talks on learning to pray.

On Sunday, Archimandrite Sergius served with Fr. Stephen and Fr. Brendan and gave the homily.

All were greatly blessed by the presence of the Saints and benefited greatly from the teaching of Fr. Sergius. The talks are available on the parish Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hsocparish/

 

 

Sanctity of Life Sunday

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Sanctity of Life Sunday

His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon has declared Sunday, January 22, 2023 as Sanctity of Life Sunday to be recognized in parishes of the Orthodox Church in America, and has issued the following statement. Resources for liturgical prayers and petitions can be found here.

Sanctity of Life Sunday follows the annual March for Life scheduled on Friday, January 20, 2023, which marks the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in the United States of America.

We welcome Orthodox faithful from across the country to join His Beatitude in commemorating the victims of abortion and to stand in witness of the sanctity of life.

Joining His Beatitude will be members from the Holy Synod of Bishops, representatives from the stavropegial seminaries, and other Orthodox Christians from around the country.

The March for Life will commence at 8:00 AM with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, DC. Additional details can be found at Orthodox Christians for Life.


To the Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,

My Beloved Children in the Lord,

From the earliest times, Christians have been at variance with the world because of their reverence toward sexuality, marriage, and human life at all its stages. In the post-apostolic Epistle to Diognetus, very possibly from the pen of St. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John the Theologian, we read that Christians ‘marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh’ (ch. 5).

Rather than viewing pleasure and fleeting happiness as the supreme good, Christians know that virtue, a rightly-ordered relationship with God and the world which he created, is what leads up toward true goodness, which is God himself. Another word for this right relationship with the Creator is life.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God and incarnate Word came to tear down the dividing wall of hostility between God and man and restore us to our friendship with the Divinity, which friendship had eroded because of sin (Eph. 2:14). Thus he is revealed to be the Life and Light of the world (Jn. 8:12, 11:25, 14:6), the one in whom and through whom we enter into a rightly-ordered relationship with existence and the Source of existence, and who shows us what that relationship—virtue—is, and where it leads—eternal life, eternal relationship with the Lord and his saints.

Life, for Christians, means far more than biological life. And yet this deeper and broader conception of life should only increase our reverence for biological life. For, in Christ, we understand that every human being is created in the image of God, and that every human life is a free gift of the Father, from whom comes every good and perfect gift (Gen. 1:27, Jam. 1:17).

Thus, we understand that there is no opposition between reverence for life and true human flourishing. Or, to cast the matter more bluntly, we can never accept abortion and infanticide as a solution for other human ills. Rather, we must see the sins of abortion and infanticide as manifestations of the same evils that underlie other social injustices.

This year, Sanctity of Life Sunday has taken on a new meaning. The Supreme Court has undone, as far as lies in its power, the injustice wrought by its decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. But this means that our work in defense and promotion of life is only just beginning.

We know that, as soon as Christians gained a voice in the Roman Empire, that used that voice to speak against the enormities that the Empire committed against human dignity: slavery, gladiator and beast fights, and, yes, abortion and infanticide. As long as we Orthodox Christians have some voice in this pluralistic, democratic society, it is right that we use this voice to defend the weakest among us, including especially the unborn children who still lie under threat of legalized abortion in many jurisdictions.

But we must never, ever allow ourselves to become focused solely on political, and much less partisan and ideological, pursuits. Instead, the defense and promotion of life must start and end with our personal commitment: in our hearts, in our families, in our parishes, in our communities, with alms of time and treasure and talent and effort. With whatever resources God may give us, we must promote true human flourishing, starting with the right to life for all people, at all stages of life. And we must do what we can to orient our life toward God through virtuous living, encouraging the same in our brethren and neighbors wherever and however it is possible. In so doing, we might hope to attain to the everlasting life and bountifulness of the heavenly kingdom, where Christ the Lord reigns with his Father and his All-holy and life-giving Spirit.

Yours in Christ,

+TIKHON
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada


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Memory Eternal

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Funeral Arrangements for Reader Ignatius (Jeff) Constant who departed this life on Saturday, December 17.

Visitation at Farley Funeral Home 265 Nokomis Ave S, Venice, FL 34285  on Thursday, December 22 from 5-7 pm with the Memorial Service at 6:30pm.

The Funeral Service will be at HSOC at Noon on Friday, December 23 with burial to follow at Gulf Pines Memorial Park in Englewood, FL

Holy Synod of OCA Issues a Statement

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Holy Synod issues statement on same-sex relationships and sexual identity

The Orthodox Church teaches that the union between a man and a woman in marriage reflects the union between Christ and His Church (Eph. 5). As such, marriage is by this reflection monogamous and heterosexual. Within this marriage, sexual relations between a husband and wife are an expression of their love that has been blessed by God. Such is God’s plan for male and female, created in his image and likeness, from the beginning, and such remains his plan for all time. Any other form of sexual expression is by its nature disordered, and cannot be blessed by the Church in any way, whether directly or indirectly.That said, the Holy Synod of Bishops expresses its pastoral concern and paternal love for all who desire to come to Christ and who struggle with their passions, temptations, and besetting sins, whatever those might be. The Church is a hospital for the sick; Our Lord has come as a physician to heal those who are ailing. Imitating our Savior, who stretched his arms wide on the Cross, we welcome with open arms all who desire the life of repentance in Christ.Over the course of recent years, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon and the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America have made numerous pronouncements affirming the Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality. Metropolitan Tikhon, at the 18th All-American Council in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 20, 2015, in his opening address, stated that:

“… the Orthodox Church must continue to proclaim what she has always taught: that marriage is the union between one man and one woman and the Orthodox Church in America can in no way deviate from this teaching…”

Among the Holy Synod’s affirmations of the same teaching are the “Synodal Affirmations on Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life,” from the 10th All-American Council, Miami, Florida, taking place from July 26-31, 1992; the “Synodal Reaffirmation of the SCOBA statement titled ‘On the Moral Crisis in our Nation,’” issued May 17, 2004; and the synodal “Statement concerning the June 26 US Supreme Court decision,” issued June 28, 2015.

Therefore, in accord with the timeless plan of God our Creator, the unchanging teaching of Christ the Savior announced through his holy apostles and their successors, and the consistent witness of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, the Holy Synod affirms what the Scriptures clearly and plainly proclaim and the holy fathers unerringly confess, namely: that God made human beings in two sexes, male and female, in his own image, and that chaste and pure sexual relationships are reserved to one man and one woman in the bond of marriage.

As such, we affirm that sexual relationships are blessed only within the context of a marriage between one man and one woman. Motivated by love and out of sincere care for souls, we call those who suffer from the passion of same-sex attraction to a life of steadfast chastity and repentance, the same life of chastity and repentance to which all mankind is called in Christ.

We call upon all clergy, theologians, teachers, and lay persons within the Orthodox Church in America never to contradict these teachings by preaching or teaching against the Church’s clear moral position; by publishing books, magazines, and articles which do the same; or producing or publishing similar content online. We reject any attempt to create a theological framework which would normalize same-sex erotic relationships or distort humanity’s God-given sexual identity. The holy apostle Paul writes that such teachings will “increase to more ungodliness,” and that such a “message will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim 2:16-17), misleading the faithful and inquirers seeking the truth.Any clergy, theologian, teacher, or lay person who contravenes our directive thus undermines the authority of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America by disregarding the Holy Synod’s consistent and unwavering teaching on these matters. We call on any such persons to cease their disruptive activities, which threaten the peace and tranquility of the Orthodox Church in America, cause scandal and uncertainty, and tempt those who struggle against their disordered passions to stumble. Consequently, those who teach these errors become participants in the sin of those whom they have tempted or whom they have failed to correct, and thus should seek remission of this sin in the mystery of holy confession. Those who refuse correction open themselves to ecclesiastical discipline.

Thus, we, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, conclude by once again affirming that all clergy, theologians, teachers, and lay persons of the Orthodox Church in America should teach nothing other than the fullness of the Orthodox faith, which is the fullness of the saving truth.

We remind our faithful and clergy that every person of goodwill is welcome to visit our parishes. However, reception into the Church, and continued communion in Christ at the sacred Chalice, is reserved for those who strive to live a life of repentance and humility in light of these God-given truths, conforming themselves to the commandments of God as the only path of salvation in Christ. All of us are sinners, but it is for precisely this reason that Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to “Repent and believe in the Gospel, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk. 1:15).

The Holy Snyod of the OCA

Staying Balanced in a Tilted World

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By Priest Demetrios Makoul for Pravmir
Throughout our day, we must always return to that still, quiet spiritual desert within us. We must start our day there, we return to it throughout the day, and we then return there at the end of the day.
It is difficult to stay or feel connected to God due to our frenetic pace in which we often live our lives. We often rush from one activity to another without taking time to be still, mindful in the present, and process what we have been doing. This can often lead to us feeling out of control or like things in our life are spiralling out of control around us. There is a way however to maintain some level of peace, awareness, and calm even when living life with a hectic pace. It involves maintaining an inner stillness even when all around us seems chaotic. What keeps us grounded and what keeps us balanced throughout the day, even when everything around us seems tilted, is maintaining a constant awareness and connection with God throughout the day. Sounds great and obvious doesn’t it? The following is a reminder of a practice and way of life we all need.

Do you liken the Judean wilderness to your own spiritual desert?

First we have to assess how often, if it all, we focus our mind on God throughout the day. That focus may be in the form of simply reflecting on God, assessing how we are doing spiritually that day (with regards to our thoughts and behaviour), or deliberate prayer even. This awareness of God and of our souls must become a constant undercurrent running beneath the activities of our daily life. In essence, our main daily activity is this awareness of God and monitoring our soul, while our daily earthly activities are the brief ventures out and away from this spiritual activity. For many, this involves a complete reversal to what they are accustomed to. Most of us get lost and immersed in our daily activities, only then making a brief venture out of our earthly duties to reflect on God and our soul.
Are we prepared to make this shift? Throughout our day, we must always return to that still, quiet spiritual desert within us. We must start our day there, we return to it throughout the day, and we return there at the end of the day. God awaits us there and it is the place where we refresh our weary souls from our ventures out into the world. It is where we are replenished with God’s peace. We need to remember the Prophet Elijah’s encounter with God outside the cave on Mt. Horeb. God was not in the destructive wind, the earthquake, or the fire. The presence of the whispering breeze or still voice marked the presence of God (I kings 19). We all need our own Mt. Horeb where we seek an encounter with God.

Statement On Overturning Roe v Wade-Metropolitan Tikhon

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Statement on the overturning of Roe v. Wade

Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon

Monday, June 27, 2022

To the Hierarchs, Clergy, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:

Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!

sanctity life

On June 24, the American people received the news that the Supreme Court of the United States, in its opinion concerning the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has overturned the right to abortion created by the court in its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

Undoubtedly, this should be a cause for rejoicing for all Orthodox Christians. As I affirmed in my recent archpastoral message for the feast of the Annunciation, “The Orthodox Church in America has always believed, upheld, preached, and defended the sanctity of human life from the time of conception in the womb.” From the earliest times, the shepherds of the Church

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On The Sacredness of Human Life-Assembly of Bishops

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Sunday, June 19, 2022

Passed by the full membership on June 19, 2022

Preamble

We, the members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, promote and uphold the sacred and inviolable essence of human life. The continued challenges of our time prompt us to publish a more comprehensive statement of the Orthodox Church’s regard for human life and, in particular, the termination of human life. Prepared by our Committee for Church and Society, and affirmed by the Assembly as a whole, this statement seeks to succinctly articulate Orthodox Christian teaching for the faithful and to continue the Church’s tradition as a beacon and witness to life as freely given by our good and loving Creator.

Sacredness of Life

The sacredness of life is shared with all creatures and creation fashioned and brought into existence by our mutual Creator. From single-celled organisms to plants, reptiles to birds, or mice to elephants, all are created and thus sacred. “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). As such, it is our responsibility as human beings to treat all life accordingly: with care, reverence, humility, and love.

Human Life is Sacred and Inviolable

The recognition of each human person as created in the image and likeness of God, destined for eternal life and therefore, sacred and inviolable, is a cornerstone of Christianity. Through the Church’s canons, dogma, and moral code across the centuries, we have affirmed this understanding of human life from the womb to the tomb. These convictions are taught and witnessed by the Orthodox Church in all its manifestations around the world today. All human life is both sacred and inviolable, regardless of age, health, or any other status. Human life, including free will, is rightly understood as a gift from God, meant to be cherished and respected. We are all meant to “have life, and have it abundantly,” as we know from our Good Shepherd (John 10:10-11). When human life is understood in this way, we are inclined to care deeply for one another and to cherish and protect each and every person.

Taking of Human Life

Any deliberate ending of human life is a rejection of its sacredness and inviolability and is unacceptable. This includes Continue reading

Sermon-June 26

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The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (4:18-23)

At that time, as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

And He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.

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The fruit of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is now evident. Last Sunday we celebrated all the saints who were well pleasing to God in every generation, known and unknown. This is the fruit of the Holy Spirit being sown in the Church. This celebration continues today with a focus closer to home, on the Saints of North America.

The people of the ancient Church have Continue reading

Statement On Sanctity of Life and The Supreme Court

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Sanctity of Life Statement

Friday, June 24, 2022

NEW YORK – Today the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Court did not outlaw abortion. It merely returned that decision to the people to decide in their respective States.

In its recent statement entitled, On the Sacredness of Human Life and its Untimely Termination, the Assembly of Bishops, addressed the issue of abortion by stating, “any act to terminate life in the womb – whether by abortive medications, medical procedures, or destructive behavior – is considered murder, and risks terrible spiritual consequences for those involved.” As such, the Assembly of Bishops recognizes today’s decision of the US Supreme Court as a step toward the preservation of life.

April 1-Mary of Egypt

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Venerable Mary of Egypt

Saint Zosimas (April 4) was a monk at a certain Palestinian monastery on the outskirts of Caesarea. Having dwelt at the monastery since his childhood, he lived there in asceticism until he reached the age of fifty-three. Then he was disturbed by the thought that he had attained perfection, and needed no one to instruct him. “Is there a monk anywhere who can show me some form of asceticism that I have not attained? Is there anyone who has surpassed me in spiritual sobriety and deeds?”

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Zosimas, you have struggled valiantly, as far as this is in the power of man. However, there is no one who is righteous (Rom 3:10). So that you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land, like Abraham from the house of his father (Gen 12:1), and go to the monastery by the Jordan.”

Abba Zosimas immediately left the monastery, and following the angel, he went to the

4th Sunday of Great Lent

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4th Sunday of Great Lent: St John Climacus (of the Ladder)

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus), the author of the work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The abbot of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai (6th century) stands as a witness to the violent effort needed for entrance into God’s Kingdom (Mt.10: 12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is a real one, “not against flesh and blood, but against … the rulers of the present darkness … the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places …” (Eph 6:12). Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt.24:13).

Last Judgement Sunday-Meatfare

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The Sunday of the Last Judgment is also known as Meatfare Sunday, or Carnival Sunday.

This is the last day that meat can be eaten before the Lenten fast.

Dairy products are allowed on each day of this week, even Wednesday and Friday.

The next Sunday is the Sunday of Cheesefare, It is the last day that dairy products can be eaten prior to the commencement of Great Lent.

“‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’”
(Matthew 25:34-36)

The Prodigal Son

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Sunday of the Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son

The Sunday after the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. This parable of God’s forgiveness calls us to “come to ourselves” as did the prodigal son, to see ourselves as being “in a far country” far from the Father’s house, and to make the journey of return to God. We are given every assurance by the Master that our heavenly Father will receive us with joy and gladness. We must only “arise and go,” confessing our self-inflicted and sinful separation from that “home” where we truly belong (Luke 15:11-24).

After the Polyeleion at Matins, we first hear the lenten hymn “By the Waters of Babylon.” It will be sung for the next two Sundays before Lent begins, and it serves to reinforce the theme of exile in today’s Gospel.

Starting tomorrow, the weekday readings summarize the events of Holy Week. On Monday we read Saint Mark’s account of the Entry into Jerusalem. On Tuesday we read how Judas went to the chief priests and offered to betray the Lord. On the night before His death Christ tells His disciples that one of them will betray Him. He also predicts that they will desert Him, and that Peter will deny Him three times. On Wednesday the Gospel describes how Judas betrayed the Savior with a kiss. Thursday’s Gospel tells how Jesus was questioned by Pilate. On Friday we read the narrative of Christ’s crucifixion and death.

Publican and Pharisee

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Sunday of The Pubican and Pharisee

 

The Sunday after the Sunday of Zacchaeus is devoted to the Publican and the Pharisee. At Vespers the night before, the Triodion (the liturgical book used in the services of Great Lent) begins.

Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee who scrupulously observed the requirements of religion: he prayed, fasted, and contributed money to the Temple. These are very good things, and should be imitated by anyone who loves God. We who may not fulfill these requirements as well as the Pharisee did should not feel entitled to criticize him for being faithful. His sin was in looking down on the Publican and feeling justified because of his external religious observances.

The second man was a Publican, a tax-collector who was despised by the people. He, however, displayed humility, and this humility justified him before God (Luke 18:14).

The lesson to be learned is that we possess neither the Pharisee’s religious piety, nor the Publican’s repentance, through which we can be saved. We are called to see ourselves as we really are in the light of Christ’s teaching, asking Him to be merciful to us, deliver us from sin, and to lead us on the path of salvation.

Two weeks before the beginning of the Fast, as part of our preparation for Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha, the Church prescribes the reading of Saint Mark’s Gospel. From Monday to Friday the focus is on the end times, and the Savior’s death and burial.

February 2-The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord

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The Meeting of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple

At this time the righteous Elder Simeon (February 3) was living in Jerusalem. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he beheld the promised Messiah. By divine inspiration, Saint Simeon went to the Temple at the very moment when the Most Holy Theotokos and Saint Joseph had brought the Child Jesus to fulfill the Law.

Saint Simeon received the divine Child in his arms,1 and giving thanks to God, he spoke the words repeated by the Church each evening at Vespers: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). Saint Simeon said to the Most Holy Virgin: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against. Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

At the Temple was an 84-year-old widow, Saint Anna the Prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel (February 3), “who did not leave the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.” She arrived just when Saint Simeon met the Divine Child. She also gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who were looking for redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). In the icon of the Feast she holds a scroll which reads: “This Child has established Heaven and earth.”

Before Christ was born, the righteous men and women lived by faith in the promised Messiah, and awaited His coming. The Righteous Simeon and the Prophetess Anna, the last righteous persons of the Old Testament, were deemed worthy to meet Him in the Temple.

The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. We have sermons by the holy bishops Methodios of Patara (+ 312), Cyril of Jerusalem (+ 360), Gregory the Theologian (+ 389), Amphilokhios of Iconium (+ 394), Gregory of Nyssa (+ 400), and John Chrysostom (+ 407). Despite its early origin, this Feast was not celebrated so splendidly until the VI century.

In 528, during the reign of Justinian, an earthquake killed many people in Antioch. Other misfortunes followed this one. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, carrying off several thousand people each day. During this time of widespread suffering, a solemn prayer service (Litia) for deliverence from evils was celebrated on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and the plague ceased. Giving thanks to God, the Church established a more solemn celebration of this Feast.

Church hymnographers have adorned this Feast with their hymns: Saint Andrew of Crete in the VII century; Saint Cosmas Bishop of Maium, Saint John of Damascus, and Saint Germanus Patriarch of Constantinople in the VIII century; and Saint Joseph, Archbishop of Thessaloniki in the IX century.

Today we also commemorate the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos known as “the Softening of Evil Hearts” or “Simeon’s Prophecy.” The Mother of God is depicted without her Child, and seven swords piercing her breast: three from the left side, three from the right, and one from below.

A similar Icon, “Of the Seven Swords” (August 13) shows three swords on the left side and four from the right. The “Softening of Evil Hearts” Is also commemorated on August 13.

The Icon “Simeon’s Prophecy” symbolizes the fulfillment of the prophecy of the righteous Elder Simeon: “a sword shall pierce through your own soul” (Luke 2:35).

In Constantinople, the Emperors would celebrate the Feast Day at the Blakhernae church during the All-Night Vigil. This custom continued until the Fall of the Byzantine Empire.

Theophany Home Blessings

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Theophany House Blessings

During the days following the Feast of the Theophany (January 6th), it is customary for the Priest to visit the homes of his parishioners, bringing with him the “Jordan Water” for the traditional Theophany House Blessing. All who reside in the household should make every effort to be present for the Blessing.

In anticipation a lampada, or candle should be prepared with an icon. Upon the arrival of the Priest, he is to be greeted by all of the family members, each of whom asks the Priest’s blessing and reverences his right hand. Then a family member lights the lampada (or candle) and turns off all televisions, radios, etc. in the home. Lights should be turned on in all the rooms of the house that are to be blessed. Then the entire family gathers with the Priest before the icon corner (or table) to begin the Theophany House Blessing. All areas of the home will be blessed, messy or not. We bless the mess too. All pets included. And cars.

This is a great way to begin the new year with the cleansing of the home with holy water.

Holy water is always available at the back of the nave for use all year. Drinking everyday is recommended, or at least when feeling ill.

Study the Scriptures-From an Orthodox Perspective

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HOW TO STUDY SCRIPTURE FROM AN ORTHODOX PERSPECTIVE

What follows is not a comprehensive guide to how to the study the Bible, but it is a collection of previous articles into one post, so that they can be easily accessed.

First, a talk that covers why we should study the Scriptures, as well as some of the basics about how we should do so.

See more here: How to study the Scriptures

 

“When It’s Safe” Means Never

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ARCHPRIEST GEOFFREY KORZ | 18 AUGUST 2020

At every liturgy in the Orthodox Church, just before the singing of the Nicene Creed, the priest or the deacon intones the words, “The doors! The doors!” This call dates back to the earliest times, when the doors of the church had to be barred shut, to prevent outsiders (in those days, Roman soldiers) from entering the church, witnessing those who confessed the faith, seizing them, and killing them.

Being a Christian was not safe.

Centuries later, under the Muslim Turks, Crypto-Christians – those who lived publically as Muslims, but secretly as Orthodox Christians – attended Liturgy in secret churches, often hidden beneath secret doors in the floors of their own homes, or in unknown caves. In rural villages, Orthodox priests sometimes posed as Muslim imams just to maintain their cover. If such a village of Crypto-Christians was discovered, everyone – from the old people down to the infants – was put to the sword.

Being a Christian was not safe.

Centuries later, under Communist regimes, faithful Christians would meet secretly in grey concrete apartment blocks, where priests would baptize for little ones who had been brought by their grandmothers, without the knowledge of the parents – a legitimate excuse for the parents to give to the atheist authorities if the family was ever caught. In the most severe Communist regimes, a handful of faithful would gather outside a city or town for a clandestine nighttime Liturgy, served by a priest brought in from far away to avoid the prying eyes of local authorities. In all these cases, the faithful knew, if they were found out, the punishment would be a swift execution, or worse – a slow and painful death in a concentration camp.

Being a Christian was not safe.

In the last few months, faithful around the world have experienced the closure of our churches, the prohibition of the public celebration of Holy Week, and the effective ban by bishops and civil authorities in different places on the reception of Holy Communion. In most places, churches have now reopened (at least in part).

Yet formal studies and informal observations show that about one-third of those who regularly attended holy services at the start of this year have now become accustomed to staying home on Sundays and feast days, and have not returned to church.

Perhaps good habits have been broken. Perhaps laziness has set in. Perhaps the lure of Sunday breakfast in bed has proven seductive.

Yet what has covered all the human laziness and brokenness behind the spiritual falling away is a single self-deception.

These are the words, “I will return to church when it is safe again.”

Curiously, one does not hear the same phrase repeated in relation to the liquor store – i.e. I will return to the liquor store when it is safe again. Nor does one hear it applied to the purchase of groceries: grocery stores seem somehow protected from all sicknesses, and remained so throughout the recent worldwide crisis.

Neither does one hear this phrase when it comes to the workplace – i.e. I will refrain from making an income, because the risk to my health is too high. I will return to work when it is safe again.

No, it seems only churches suffer from the unique level of danger – just as they did throughout the earlier part of this year, making them more risky than public transport and dollar stores combined.

The truth is, in the current climate of madness, many Orthodox Christians have not only shifted from realistic medical precaution to social hysteria, they have also found social hysteria to be a most convenient cloak for avoiding anything inconvenient or difficult.

Have to visit a relative? Not until it’s safe again.

Have to finish some difficult job? Not until it’s safe again.

And how about going back to church every Sunday morning…?

Brethren, attending the holy services of the Orthodox Church – Sundays or feast days – has never been safer than it is today. The truth is, however, it has never been safe to be a Christian.

In the catacombs around Rome rest the remains of more martyrs for Christ than live in my home city – over half a million martyrs. Being a Christian and going to church was always a risk for them – and so it will be for every generation of Christian, unto ages of ages.

So please, kindly set aside the idea that you will return to the holy services “when it’s safe”. That day will never come.

You will either make up your mind to live as a Christian and return to church, or you won’t.

Awake At Night?

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Are you frequently being wakened at night?

It may be God calling…

There is strategic significance in praying during the early morning hours.

In the Gospel reading this past Sunday St. Matthew tells us that Jesus came to them walking on the water in the Fourth Watch of the night. (Matthew 14:22-33)

The fourth watch is defined by the Roman watch as a time spanning from 3am – 6am.

As I mentioned in my sermon on Sunday the Bible refers to this way of keeping time and also refers to hours of the day.

For instance, Matthew 27:45  Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.

​At the time of Christ on earth time was not as precise as it is today.

It was approximate. The 4th watch was the time between 3 and 6 am. More precisely, the 4th watch started at 3 am and the guards were on duty until day, 6 am.

The hours of the day were: 1st  6 am; 3rd 9 am; 6th Noon; 9th hour 3 pm.

The Orthodox Church reflects this in the Services of the Hours, appointed for those hours of the day, then Vespers at 6 pm. The new day beginning at Vespers. Plus there is the Compline Service and the Midnight Service.

So the first century Christian would understand St. Matthew to mean, it was about 3 am when Jesus came, walking on the water.

The darkest hour of the night. In a great storm. After a long day when they listened to the teaching of Jesus, He fed the 5000 and then sent them into the boat to go ahead of Him across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus went up the mountain to pray after He dismissed the crowds. They all must have been pretty tired. Fatigue can exaggerate fear. The disciples were afraid. Jesus was not.

Then as the disciples row across the Sea a storm fights them, the wind blows against them, keeping them from reaching the other side and threatening to drown them.

Remember, on one other occasion in a similar situation, Jesus was with them and calmed the storm to save them. (Matthew 8:23-27) This time they did not have Him in the boat.

St. Mark tells us (Mark 6:42-53) that Jesus “saw them in the boat” while He was still on the mountain praying. Verse 48 tells us “and he would have passed by them” walking on the water.

Jesus sees them from the mountain and leaves to help them, yet it says “He would have passed them by.” As if He was waiting to hear them ask for help, Matthew says they thought it may have been a spirit and they were very afraid. So they call out to Him and He comes to them.

The dark hours of the night, a raging storm, the disciples are afraid for their lives, the last time Jesus had saved them after they woke Him from sleep. This time they thought they were alone and He comes, but not until stretching their faith. A little.

Sometimes, this is how we awaken in the night. With frightening dreams, worry, fear for some thing or another. The dark seems to make it worse.

But just as Jesus saw them from afar, He sees us as well. Struggling with our thoughts, plagued with worry, lacking faith.

He comes to us, He is with us. But we see the storm and the waves, not Him.

The forces of “nature” seem often to oppose us, indeed the earth itself is against us (Genesis 3) but they are ultimately God’s servants and work at His bidding for our salvation (Romans 8:28).

The Gospel of St. John and St. Mark do not mention the fact that Peter walked on the water. Mark tells us that as soon as Jesus came to the boat it was at the land. Instant resolution.

St. Matthew tells us this story about the wonders of God and our weakness (why did you doubt?) in the midst of the storm; the small reference to the Fourth Watch is a detail that sets me to thinking.

What is it about the night?

  • Jacob wrestled with God and met Him face to face. Gen 32:24

Gen 32:24  And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

  • Moses led the Israelites across the Red Sea- Exodus 14:24

Exo 14:24  And it came to pass in the morning watch, that Jehovah looked forth upon the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of cloud, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians.

  • Gideon defeated the Midianites (middle watch), Judges 7:19

Jdg 7:19  So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outermost part of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch, when they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake in pieces the pitchers that were in their hands.

(before the Romans the Jews kept three watches)

  • Peter and Jesus walk on water, Matthew 14:25.
  • The angels appear to the shepherds in the field to announce the birth of the savior.  Luke 2:8 

Luke 2:8  And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.

  • Jesus is resurrected from the dead, Matthew 28:1

Mat 28:1  Now late on the sabbath day, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

  • The bridegroom comes at mid-night Matthew 25:6

Mat 25:6  But at midnight there is a cry, Behold, the bridegroom! Come ye forth to meet him.

Some pretty amazing things happen in the night!

What if you are awakened in the night for a spiritual reason? What if God wants to come to you in the night?

Maybe 8 straight hours of sleep isn’t the best plan.

The next time you wake in the night, grab some prayer before you try for more zzzzz’s.

Two Sleeps Story Here

The Story of the World We Live In

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The Story of the World We Live In

July 8, 2020 · Fr. Stephen Freeman

Some ten or so years ago, my wife and I were hunting for a long-ish audiobook to entertain us as we made a 10-hour drive. A novel was one possibility, but none came to mind. As it was, we chose a book named “Salt.” It was an account of the world in terms of salt – its use, its production, its vital importance to human life, and its place in the shaping of our history. I was skeptical as the trip began, but found myself intrigued as the hours rolled by and we journeyed across world history courtesy of everyone’s favorite condiment. Salt apparently belongs to something of a literary genre. The author of Salt has also given us Milk, Cod, Salmon, and Paper. I need to schedule more road trips.

What these fascinating books illustrate is that the story of the world, and civilization, can be told from any number of angles. Is the world really just the story of salt? Or, could the story of the world be told from the point-of-view of a single grain of sand? Doubtless, more would be said of the endless procession of ocean waves than is accounted for in our historical travails. As narrative creatures, we tend to dismiss the grain of sand as nothing more than background, a prop that supports the real action. A single grain’s story, however, would provide a great deal to consider. The silica and other elements that make up the average beach have an origin, no less complex than our own, though with fewer words and emotional tensions.

These exercises in historical perspectives are instructive for understanding the limits of all historical conversations. In history, we are always right to ask, “Who is telling the story? What’s this story about? From what point of view is it written?” If we were speaking of a “pure” history, then it would be the story of everything, about everything, told from everything’s point of view. Such, of course, is impossible. Choices must be made. When the choices are made, those questions will be answered more finitely and with greater precision. But what is then called “history” is not really about everything – but about a few things, and always with a point.

During a time of social upheaval, one of the most disturbing aspects of our lives is the turmoil within the public narrative. How do we speak about ourselves and others? How do we describe what is taking place. What is unfolding?

For the faithful, this disturbance should be revealing. The nature of the secular world is that it establishes the dominant narrative for the world. Without noticing, we quietly make the Christian story to be a sub-plot of this larger account. Our faith becomes what secularism tells us: a personal option that is, at most, a religious life-style. We feel powerless and worry that the voice of the Church is silent. Indeed, I hear this when various people suggest how the Church could make its voice more “effective.”

There is a “clash of narratives” as Christ stands before Pontius Pilate. Pilate imagines that the Roman Imperium is the true narrative and defining story of the world. He threatens Christ, “Don’t you know I have the power to kill you or to release you?” For Christ, the Roman Imperium is but a passing moment within the salvific providence of God. “You would have no power over me were it not given to you from above.”

This same clash of narratives occurs day-by-day in our own lives, though we rarely notice. We hear the dominant cultural narrative announce its importance and power. Our response is anxiety and concern flows from the fact that we believe its claims to be true. Imagine Pontius Pilate’s shock at being told that he would have “no power” over Jesus had it not been given to him by God (“from above”). It is Christ’s complete dismissal of the Roman narrative. The martyrs of the early Church lived in the same dismissal. Their faith was the full acceptance of the narrative we have received from God in Christ. Christ’s death and resurrection is the final word of God on the outcome of human history. In Christ, history comes to an end, and we won. That quiet assurance eventually led to the complete failure of Rome’s claims.

The danger resurfaces, however, as converted empires, and their secularized children, begin to assert new narratives that seek to replace the gospel of the Kingdom of God with the bastardized gospel of progress and human perfection.

There is always a danger within the political life of modernity that our participation will mark our capitulation to its narrative. As such, our vote (or other such actions) always borders dangerously on the pinch of incense offered to the emperor as worship, a thing rejected as idolatry by the early martyrs. I say, “borders,” because it need not be a capitulation. But, in order to refrain from that capitulation and blasphemous offering, there is a need to deconstruct our own vote.

So, what is the narrative that explains our vote? Do we imagine that history depends on such a thing, that the world is being constructed through politics? Again, in His dialog with Pilate, Christ said:

“If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36)

The ballot is certainly a “peaceful” way of joining battle (thank God!), but it, nevertheless, generally assumes the Hobbesian contract in which the world is a pitched battle for control. The nature of the American social contract is an agreement to allow the ballot box to replace the battlefield. Nevertheless, it presumes the supremacy of the ballot. That is its presumed narrative.

For the Christian, the narrative of the gospel of Christ is, always, the controlling structure of our life. That work of Christ, completed in His death and resurrection, are the sole source of peace and true meaning. We may vote, but the outcome rests in Christ, just as surely as the outcome of Pilate’s judgment was not truly in his own hands. None of this denies the actual historical reality of our actions. Rather, it affirms the historical reality of Christ’s actions and their lordship over every human reality. There may be an election whose outcome could be classified as “death.” It remains a fact that Christ “tramples down death by death.”

For too many, the Cross of Christ has disappeared into the historical past and become a “fact” about which we proclaim a doctrine, a religious belief. As for the present, we take up our swords (even the peaceful ones) and imagine ourselves as having been delivered into the wars of this world for good or ill. (Do your best!) However, the historical character of the Cross does not exhaust its content. The Cross is an event of the God/Man. It is the marriage of heaven and earth, both within time and utterly transcendent of time. It is an eternal moment while being truly historical. Its “cause-and-effect” is equally eternal and triumphant over every human cause. Every human cause is thus “judged” by the Cross. An election, like every act of the human will, stands before the Cross and has its meaning within the light of the Cross. It is only in that Light that we see light.

Christ’s words, “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world,” remain true and triumphant. Today, this is the story by which we live. All of creation holds meaning only in its light. God forbid that we imagine this to be a religious conversation and not a conversation about the whole of life.

We all stand before Pilate. However, it is God’s story that rules the world.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

Upcoming Events and Sunday Bulletin

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July 19-26

Wednesday  9 am-Divine Liturgy-Mary Magdalene 6 pm-Orthodoxy Class-bring a  Bible-5th Century and End Times

Thursday     12-Molieben for an Epidemic

Saturday      5 pm-Vespers

Sunday        9 am-Matins

Sunday        10 am-Divine Liturgy

Sunday, July 19-6th Sunday after Pentecost-The Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils

 The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. (12:6-14)

Brethren, Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (9:1-8)

At that time, getting into a boat Jesus crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, Your sins are forgiven,' or to say,Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic — “Rise, take up your bed and go home.”

And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

 Prayer List:

Sub-deacon Mitri and Nora Moussa, Helen Nicholas, Barbara Demis, Dennis Poney, Lydia Holt, Lily Zelner, Anna T., Matushka Sasha, Fr. Ian, and Alia Karras, Al Maruskin.

On Receiving Holy Communion

Let us attend.

We welcome all people to come and worship with us, however, only Orthodox Christians in good standing may come to the chalice and receive the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This means that we believe it is the Body and Blood, not just bread and wine. This means that we confess ourselves to be sinners in need of salvation and we have participated in the Sacrament of Repentance and Confession, confessing our sins to the priest for absolution and forgiveness.

St. Paul teaches us that there is a dangerous way to receive communion, unworthily, not discerning the Body and Blood, this can cause people to get sick and possibly to die. (cf. 1 Cor. 11:26-31) But St. Paul does not teach us that we can get sick if we approach the chalice the right way. We cannot get a virus by consuming the Body and Blood of Christ. The God who created the cosmos, appeared miraculously in the burning bush and revealed Himself in the Holy Trinity can certainly keep us from illness when properly communing with and consuming a miracle. This does not mean we blindly go worth, but we go forth in faith; distancing, sterilizing, masking, etc.; out of love for neighbor, not believing that the building itself will keep us healthy. We do not put God to the test.

The miracle is in the chalice, not the people nor the building. But even with that we are careful, tilting our heads back, opening our mouths and allowing the Gifts to be dropped in with care. Not touching anything, for the sake of the weaker brethren. Have faith, not fear; be cautious, not afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

The Church Is Not a Cruise Ship, But a Battleship

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By: Archpriest John Moses | 28 December 2019

It always surprises me when someone comes to the Orthodox faith. Given the present age, there are so many versions of Christianity on offer. Many of them are in step with the values and hopes of the culture. Some offer a path of prosperity and comfort (whether they ever deliver is another issue). Some offer helpful hints for hurtful habits and demand little more while others teach the path of positive thinking. In some, the music is rousing and contemporary, but often the theology is not intellectually demanding.

Why then would someone want to join a Faith that asks you to be regular in your attendance instead of coming when it suits you; that you fast as a lifestyle; adopt a prayer rule instead of just praying what you want and when you want; tithe instead of dropping in the box whatever you have in your pocket; study to challenge your thinking instead of believing that all you have to do is “read and heed”; attend classes to learn from others, etc.

Read more here: battleship

Elder Ephraim Reposes in the Lord

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On December 7, 2019 at approximately 10 p.m., Elder Hieromonk Ephraim of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos Arizona, founder of 17 monastic communities in the United States, peacefully fell asleep in the Lord at Saint Anthony Monastery in Florence, Arizona at the age of 92.

The Athonite elder, loved throughout the entire Orthodox world, also remained the spiritual father of several monasteries in Greece and on Mt. Athos, where he labored for many years as the spiritual child of the recently-canonized Elder Joseph the Hesychast and as abbot of Philotheou Monastery.

The Funeral Service for Elder Ephraim was held on Wednesday, December 11 at Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, Arizona. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America presided, along with numerous hierarchs and monastics of his Archdiocese. May his memory be eternal!  ​

 

A Simple Approach to Reading the Entire Bible

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Archpriest John Whiteford | 04 August 2019

There are some elaborate charts that tell you how you could read the Bible all the way through in one year — which if you followed, would work fine. However, I wonder how many people have ever followed such charts all the way through, because it would require that you make regular reference to the charts, and remember where you were on the chart.
On the other hand, many people simply open up the Bible at Genesis, and then get bogged down somewhere towards the end of Exodus and Leviticus, and then quit.
One method I would suggest is much simpler to follow, and if you do, you not only will read the Bible all the way through in about a year or so… but you could continue to read the Bible and get a balanced intake of the various parts of the Bible rather than hit one section that is difficult and then lose interest.

Read the rest here: Read

The Soul is a Mirror

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by Fr. Stephen Freeman

The soul is a difficult thing to speak (or write) about. First, the word is used so commonly and widely that its true meaning becomes obscured. Second, the soul is largely unknown to each of us, despite its primary importance. So, I will begin by giving its simple meaning: the soul is our life. When we hear the story of Adam’s creation we learn that he is fashioned out of the earth. Then, God breathes into him, “and he became a living soul.” The soul is the life (there are no dead souls), and the life is a gift from God, the “Lord and Giver of Life.”

Read the rest here: soul