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As we navigate through these difficult times, St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church invites all faithful to remotely light a candle and offer a prayer.
Fr. Anthony will light as many narthex and vigil (7-day) candles as you would like to request. To make a request, simply email Fr. Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org specifying the number and type of candles you would like to have lit, providing the name(s) you would like to have read for each candle. You can also call Fr. Anthony at 801-824-3987 to make your request and provide your name(s).
To make a donation for the candles requested, simply click here to access our online donation page. On the line for “Other Donations” insert the amount you wish to donate and type “Candle Donations” in the adjacent comment box.
Donations can also be mailed via check addressed to: St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church, P.O. Box 171224, Holladay, Utah 84117
May God continue to bless and protect all people of the world as we navigate through these challenging times.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I trust and pray you are all well.
Last week, I publicly unveiled our plan for Sunday School, set to begin next month. I must say, that our Sunday School teachers and administration have worked very hard to create (from scratch) our best offering during a time of great challenge. Some families want to return to live Sunday School. Some are not ready. Some teachers feel comfortable teaching live classes. Some do not. Governments, school boards, universities, professional sports leagues, corporations, movie studios, small business, households and yes, even churches, have done their level best these past seven months to negotiate through the realities of a new normal.
St. Anna’s is no different. Nobody gave us a road map or a manual on how best to operate, minister or provide services for our people. In February, our community was full of excitement and the anticipation of being in our own church building. Five short weeks later, we were locked out of our own space and forced to worship via the internet. Months later, our church re-opened again. We did our best to accommodate our new realities, circumstances and limitations.
In re-opening, we followed the directives of our State, Metropolis, Archdiocese, and the best advice from our own Medical Advisory Ministry Team (MAMT)- a group of St. Anna medical professionals with differing experiences, political affiliations and scientific backgrounds – but ALL united in the Body of Christ and wanting to create the safest environment possible. Why would I mention politics? Because there are some, perhaps more than a few, who believe that our policies were politically motivated, not governed by data, obedience to religious authority, respect for civil authority, and good, common sense.
This brings me to our decision to begin on-line registration for Sunday church attendance. Although this has been a common practice throughout the nation once our churches reopened, this is admittedly something unique to our area. To my knowledge, here are no other Orthodox parishes in Utah that are resorting to this.
I owe you, the parishioners of St. Anna’s an apology for rolling out such a practice without a proper explanation. This lack of communication on my part has left a slight vacuum filled with assumptions, misinformation and yes, even people’s unwarranted political suspicions. So please let me make something perfectly clear:
While it is true that due to coronavirus, participation in live worship has been reduced, it is equally true that Sunday participation is still active. On more than one occasion, we exceeded more than 70% of our total capacity to accommodate live, social distanced participation. In other words, people have thankfully continued to come to church. And with space nearly filling up, even before Sunday School begins, we felt it necessary to follow the lead of multiple Orthodox communities and offer on-line registration. This way, we would know if and when we reached capacity, BEFORE turning people away because the church filled up. Would you like to be the person who got up, dressed up, and came to church, only to be turned away? I thought not. Again, I am sorry for not properly explaining the necessity for such action.
I am also grateful for our church leaders who continue to seek solutions, find the best ways to serve our parishioners and bring glory to our loving and merciful Lord. Your parish council and I are still searching for the proper balance of safety, ministry, and active participation.
When you come to church this Sunday, and I pray you do, you will notice that an additional 43 chairs have been added to the seating capacity of our sanctuary. I won’t explain how, you can see that for yourself. Our parish council, together with the best advice of the MAMT will determine if these additional seats will allow us to forego, at least for now, the necessity of preregistration for church attendance. Maybe we found our answer to our immediate challenge. Maybe we did not. But at least, as always, we will continue to think and pray ourselves out of a challenge. We will make our decisions based on love and the best way to serve the people of God. There are no other influences which determine our courses of action. If it’s determined that the best way to accommodate an increase in Sunday participation is to have you sign-up on line, I will trust that you know it is done out of blessed necessity.
This community was formed, not too long ago, based on faith, vision, authentic unity and the desire to break influences of negativity. Please join me in prayer, that the beginning of our Sunday School will be successful, that our families, and all families remain safe, and that our Lord Jesus Christ will be the center of every motivation in each of our hearts. I remain,
With Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Please pay prayerful attention to the following description of Monday’s Great Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Holy Cross by the Orthodox Church in America. We WILL offer live services on this Feast. Orthros will begin at 8:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy and Procession of the Cross at 9:00 am.
The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord: The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. The Emperor Hadrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and to build a temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter.
Pagans gathered at this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains, the Sepulchre of the Lord and the Life-Creating Cross were again discovered and opened for veneration. This took place under the Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) after his victory in the year 312 over Maxentius, ruler of the Western part of the Roman empire, and over Licinius, ruler of its Eastern part. In the year 323 Constantine became the sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire.
In 313 he had issued the Edict of Milan, by which the Christian religion was legalized and the persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the empire were stopped. The ruler Licinius, although he had signed the Edict of Milan to oblige Constantine, still fanatically continued the persecutions against Christians. Only after his conclusive defeat did the 313 Edict of Milan extend also to the Eastern part of the empire. The Holy Equal of the Apostles Emperor Constantine, having gained victory over his enemies in three wars with God’s assistance, had seen in the heavens the Sign of the Cross, and written beneath: “By this you shall conquer.”
Ardently desiring to find the Cross on 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 Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Although the holy empress Helen was already in her declining years, she set about completing the task with enthusiasm. The empress gave orders to destroy the pagan temple and the statues in Jerusalem. Searching for the Life-Creating Cross, she made inquiry of Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search remained unsuccessful.
Finally, they directed her to a certain elderly Hebrew by the name of Jude who stated that the Cross was buried where the temple of Venus stood. They demolished the pagan temple and, after praying, they began to excavate the ground. Soon the Tomb of the Lord was uncovered. Not far from it were three crosses, a board with the inscription ordered by Pilate, and four nails which had pierced the Lord’s Body (March 6).
In order to discern on which of the three crosses the Savior was crucified, Patriarch Macarius alternately touched the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord touched the dead one, he came to life. Having beheld the raising of the dead man, everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross was found.
Christians came in a huge throng to venerate the Holy Cross, beseeching Saint Macarius to elevate the Cross, so that even those far off might reverently contemplate it. Then the Patriarch and other spiritual leaders raised up the Holy Cross, and the people, saying “Lord have mercy,” reverently prostrated before the Venerable Wood. This solemn event occurred in the year 326.
During the discovery of the Life-Creating Cross another miracle took place: a grievously sick woman, beneath the shadow of the Holy Cross, was healed instantly. The elder Jude and other Jews there believed in Christ and accepted Holy Baptism. Jude received the name Cyriacus and afterwards was consecrated Bishop of Jerusalem. During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363) he accepted a martyr’s death for Christ (see October 28).
The holy empress 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 death.
Saint Helen took part of the Life-Creating Wood and nails with her to Constantinople. The holy emperor Constantine gave orders to build at Jerusalem a majestic and spacious church in honor of the
Resurrection of Christ, also including under its roof the Life-Giving Tomb of the Lord and Golgotha. The temple was constructed in about ten years. Saint Helen did not survive until the dedication of the temple, she died 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 Venerable and Life-Creating 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 Phocas (602-610) the Persian emperor Khozroes II in a war against the Greeks defeated the Greek army, plundered Jerusalem and captured both the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord and the Holy Patriarch Zachariah (609-633).
The Cross remained in Persia for fourteen years and only under the emperor Heraclius (610-641), who with the help of God defeated Khozroes and concluded peace with his successor and son Syroes, was the Cross of the Lord returned to the Christians.
With great solemnity the Life-creating Cross was transferred to Jerusalem. Emperor Heraclius in imperial crown and royal purple carried the Cross of Christ into the temple of the Resurrection. With the emperor went Patriarch Zacharios. At the gates by which they ascended Golgotha, the emperor suddenly stopped and was not able to proceed farther. The holy Patriarch explained to the emperor that an angel of the Lord was blocking his way. The emperor was told to remove his royal trappings and to walk barefoot, since He Who bore the Cross for the salvation of the world from sin had made His way to Golgotha in all humility. Then Heraclius donned plain garb, 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 gathers together, the Cross is exalted, and the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast”.
Much Love in XC,
Fr. Anthony Savas
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today, August 29th marks one of the most sad and unjust days in the life of the Church. Perhaps their is no other account of martyrdom as senseless as that of the Baptizer. His life was stricken from this earth, not from the impetuousness of religious zeal, or from one’s theological dispute, but rather from the even darker places of human anger, spite, vengeance, revenge and blood-thirsty power. Please keep today in quiet contemplation and prayerful attention. Please also take the time to read the following account of today’s commemoration from the Orthodox Church in America.
The Beheading of the Prophet, Forerunner of the Lord, John the Baptist: The Evangelists Matthew (Mt.14:1-12) and Mark (Mark 6:14-29) provide accounts about the martyric end of John the Baptist in the year 32 after the Birth of Christ.
Following the Baptism of the Lord, Saint John the Baptist was locked up in prison by Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch (ruler of one fourth of the Holy Land) and governor of Galilee. (After the death of king Herod the Great, the Romans divided the territory of Palestine into four parts, and put a governor in charge of each part. Herod Antipas received Galilee from the emperor Augustus).
The prophet of God John openly denounced Herod for having left his lawful wife, the daughter of the Arabian king Aretas, and then instead cohabiting with Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip (Luke 3:19-20). On his birthday, Herod made a feast for dignitaries, the elders and a thousand chief citizens. Salome, the daughter of Herod, danced before the guests and charmed Herod. In gratitude to the girl, he swore to give her whatever she would ask, up to half his kingdom.
The vile girl on the advice of her wicked mother Herodias asked that she be given the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod became apprehensive, for he feared the wrath of God for the murder of a prophet, whom earlier he had heeded. He also feared the people, who loved the holy Forerunner. But because of the guests and his careless oath, he gave orders to cut off the head of Saint John and to give it to Salome.
According to Tradition, the mouth of the dead preacher of repentance once more opened and proclaimed: “Herod, you should not have the wife of your brother Philip.” Salome took the platter with the head of Saint John and gave it to her mother. The frenzied Herodias repeatedly stabbed the tongue of the prophet with a needle and buried his holy head in a unclean place. But the pious Joanna, wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, buried the head of John the Baptist in an earthen vessel on the Mount of Olives, where Herod had a parcel of land. (The Uncovering of the Venerable Head is celebrated February 24). The holy body of John the Baptist was taken that night by his disciples and buried at Sebastia, there where the wicked deed had been done.
After the murder of Saint John the Baptist, Herod continued to govern for a certain time. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, later sent Jesus Christ to him, Whom he mocked (Luke 23:7-12).
The judgment of God came upon Herod, Herodias and Salome, even during their earthly life. Salome, crossing the River Sikoris in winter, fell through the ice. The ice gave way in such a way that her body was in the water, but her head was trapped above the ice. It was similar to how she once had danced with her feet upon the ground, but now she flailed helplessly in the icy water. Thus she was trapped until that time when the sharp ice cut through her neck.
Her corpse was not found, but they brought the head to Herod and Herodias, as once they had brought them the head of Saint John the Baptist. The Arab king Aretas, in revenge for the disrespect shown his daughter, made war against Herod. The defeated Herod suffered the wrath of the Roman emperor Caius Caligua (37-41) and was exiled with Herodias first to Gaul, and then to Spain.
The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, a Feast day established by the Church, is also a strict fast day because of the grief of Christians at the violent death of the saint. In some Orthodox cultures pious people will not eat food from a flat plate, use a knife, or eat food that is round in shape on this day.
With Love in XC,
Please remember the Giving Grid and participate! Please pay attention to the continued/altered Liturgical Schedule as influenced by the realities of an on-going pandemic and health crisis. Please be patient, prayerful and understanding.