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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message January 23, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Tuesday is the Feast of St. Gregory the Theologian, one of the three “Doctors” of the Church. Orthros begins at 8:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy at 9:00 am.

Saint Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople, a great Father and teacher of the Church, was born into a Christian family of eminent lineage in the year 329, at Arianzos (not far from the city of Cappadocian Nazianzos). His father, also named Gregory (January 1), was Bishop of Nazianzus. The son is the Saint Gregory Nazianzus encountered in Patristic theology. His pious mother, Saint Nonna (August 5), prayed to God for a son, vowing to dedicate him to the Lord. Her prayer was answered, and she named her child Gregory.

When the child learned to read, his mother presented him with the Holy Scripture. Saint Gregory received a complete and extensive education: after working at home with his uncle Saint Amphilochios (November 23), an experienced teacher of rhetoric, he then studied in the schools of Nazianzos, Caesarea in Cappadocia, and Alexandria. Then the saint decided to go to Athens to complete his education.

On the way from Alexandria to Greece, a terrible storm raged for many days. Saint Gregory, who was just a catechumen at that time, feared that he would perish in the sea before being cleansed in the waters of Baptism. Saint Gregory lay in the ship’s stern for twenty days, beseeching the merciful God for salvation. He vowed to dedicate himself to God and was saved when he invoked the name of the Lord.

Saint Gregory spent six years in Athens studying rhetoric, poetry, geometry, and astronomy. His teachers were the renowned pagan rhetoricians Gymorias and Proeresias. Saint Basil, the future Archbishop of Caesarea (January 1) also studied in Athens with Saint Gregory. They were such close friends that they seemed to be one soul in two bodies. Julian, the future emperor (361-363) and apostate from the Christian Faith, was studying philosophy in Athens at the same time.

Upon completing his education, Saint Gregory remained for a certain while at Athens as a teacher of rhetoric. He was also familiar with pagan philosophy and literature.

In 358 Saint Gregory quietly left Athens and returned to his parents at Nazianzus. At thirty-three years of age, he received Baptism from his father, who had been appointed Bishop of Nazianzus. Against his will, Saint Gregory was ordained to the holy priesthood by his father. However, when the elder Gregory wished to make him a bishop, he fled to join his friend Basil in Pontus. Saint Basil had organized a monastery in Pontus and had written to Gregory inviting him to come.

Saint Gregory remained with Saint Basil for several years. When his brother Saint Caesarius (March 9) died, he returned home to help his father administer his diocese. The local church was also in turmoil because of the Arian heresy. Saint Gregory had the difficult task of reconciling the bishop with his flock, who condemned their pastor for signing an ambiguous interpretation of the dogmas of the faith.

Saint Gregory convinced his father of the pernicious nature of Arianism and strengthened him in Orthodoxy. At this time, Bishop Anthimus, who pretended to be Orthodox but was really a heretic, became Metropolitan of Tyana. Saint Basil had been consecrated as the Archbishop of Caesarea, Cappadocia. Anthimus wished to separate from Saint Basil and to divide the province of Cappadocia.

Saint Basil the Great made Saint Gregory bishop of the city of Sasima, a small town between Caesarea and Tyana. However, Saint Gregory remained at Nazianzos in order to assist his dying father, and he guided the flock of this city for a while after the death of his father in 374.

Upon the death of Patriarch Valentus of Constantinople in the year 378, a council of bishops invited Saint Gregory to help the Church of Constantinople, which at this time was ravaged by heretics. Obtaining the consent of Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory came to Constantinople to combat heresy. In the year 379 he began to serve and preach in a small church called “Anastasis” (“Resurrection”). Like David fighting the Philistines with a sling, Saint Gregory battled against impossible odds to defeat false doctrine.

Heretics were in the majority in the capital: Arians, Macedonians, and Appolinarians. The more he preached, the more did the number of heretics decrease, and the number of the Orthodox increased. On the night of Pascha (April 21, 379) when Saint Gregory was baptizing catechumens, a mob of armed heretics burst into the church and cast stones at the Orthodox, killing one bishop and wounding Saint Gregory. But the fortitude and mildness of the saint were his armor, and his words converted many to the Orthodox Church.

Saint Gregory’s literary works (orations, letters, poems) show him as a worthy preacher of the truth of Christ. He had a literary gift, and the saint sought to offer his talent to God the Word: “I offer this gift to my God, I dedicate this gift to Him. Only this remains to me as my treasure. I gave up everything else at the command of the Spirit. I gave all that I had to obtain the pearl of great price. Only in words do I master it, as a servant of the Word. I would never intentionally wish to disdain this wealth. I esteem it, I set value by it, I am comforted by it more than others are comforted by all the treasures of the world. It is the companion of all my life, a good counselor and converser; a guide on the way to Heaven and a fervent co-ascetic.” In order to preach the Word of God properly, the saint carefully prepared and revised his works.

In five sermons, or “Theological Orations,” Saint Gregory first of all defines the characteristics of a theologian, and who may theologize. Only those who are experienced can properly reason about God, those who are successful at contemplation and, most importantly, who are pure in soul and body, and utterly selfless. To reason about God properly is possible only for one who enters into it with fervor and reverence.

Explaining that God has concealed His Essence from mankind, Saint Gregory demonstrates that it is impossible for those in the flesh to view mental objects without a mixture of the corporeal. Talking about God in a positive sense is possible only when we become free from the external impressions of things and from their effects, when our guide, the mind, does not adhere to impure transitory images. Answering the Eunomians, who would presume to grasp God’s Essence through logical speculation, the saint declared that man perceives God when the mind and reason become godlike and divine, i.e. when the image ascends to its Archetype. (Or. 28:17). Furthermore, the example of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets and also the Apostles has demonstrated, that the Essence of God is incomprehensible for mortal man. Saint Gregory cited the futile sophistry of Eunomios: “God begat the Son either through His will, or contrary to will. If He begat contrary to will, then He underwent constraint. If by His will, then the Son is the Son of His intent.”

Confuting such reasoning, Saint Gregory points out the harm it does to man: “You yourself, who speak so thoughtlessly, were you begotten voluntarily or involuntarily by your father? If involuntarily, then your father was under the sway of some tyrant. Who? You can hardly say it was nature, for nature is tolerant of chastity. If it was voluntarily, then by a few syllables you deprive yourself of your father, for thus you are shown to be the son of Will, and not of your father” (Or. 29:6).

Saint Gregory then turns to Holy Scripture, with particular attention examining a place where it points out the Divine Nature of the Son of God. Saint Gregory’s interpretations of Holy Scripture are devoted to revealing that the divine power of the Savior was actualized even when He assumed an impaired human nature for the salvation of mankind.

The first of Saint Gregory’s Five Theological Orations is devoted to arguments against the Eunomians for their blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Closely examining everything that is said in the Gospel about the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the saint refutes the heresy of Eunomios, which rejected the divinity of the Holy Spirit. He comes to two fundamental conclusions. First, in reading Holy Scripture, it is necessary to reject blind literalism and to try and understand its spiritual sense. Second, in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit operated in a hidden way. “Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us and makes the manifestation of Himself more certain. It was not safe, as long as they did not acknowledge the divinity of the Father, to proclaim openly that of the Son; and as long as the divinity of the Son was not accepted, they could not, to express it somewhat boldly, impose on us the burden of the Holy Spirit” (Or. 31:26).

The divinity of the Holy Spirit is a sublime subject. “Look at these facts: Christ is born, the Holy Spirit is His Forerunner. Christ is baptized, the Spirit bears witness to this… Christ works miracles, the Spirit accompanies them. Christ ascends, the Spirit takes His place. What great things are there in the idea of God which are not in His power? What titles appertaining to God do not apply also to Him, except for Unbegotten and Begotten? I tremble when I think of such an abundance of titles, and how many Names they blaspheme, those who revolt against the Spirit!” (Or. 31:29).

The Orations of Saint Gregory are not limited only to this topic. He also wrote Panegyrics on Saints, Festal Orations, two invectives against Julian the Apostate, “two pillars, on which the impiety of Julian is indelibly written for posterity,” and various orations on other topics. In all, forty-five of Saint Gregory’s orations have been preserved.

The letters of the saint compare favorably with his best theological works. All of them are clear, yet concise. In his poems as in all things, Saint Gregory focused on Christ. “If the lengthy tracts of the heretics are new Psalters at variance with David, and the pretty verses they honor are like a third testament, then we also shall sing Psalms, and begin to write much and compose poetic meters,” said the saint. Of his poetic gift the saint wrote: “I am an organ of the Lord, and sweetly… do I glorify the King, all tremble before Him.”

The fame of the Orthodox preacher spread through East and West. But the saint lived in the capital as though he still lived in the wilderness: “his food was food of the wilderness; his clothing was whatever necessary. He made visitations without pretense, and though in proximity of the court, he sought nothing from the court.”

The saint received a shock when he was ill. One whom he considered as his friend, the philosopher Maximus, was consecrated at Constantinople in Saint Gregory’s place. Struck by the ingratitude of Maximus, the saint decided to resign the cathedral, but his faithful flock restrained him from it. The people threw the usurper out of the city. On November 24, 380 the holy emperor Theodosius arrived in the capital and, in enforcing his decree against the heretics, the main church was returned to the Orthodox, with Saint Gregory making a solemn entrance. An attempt on the life of Saint Gregory was planned, but instead the assassin appeared before the saint with tears of repentance.

At the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, Saint Gregory was chosen as Patriarch of Constantinople. After the death of Patriarch Meletius of Antioch, Saint Gregory presided at the Council. Hoping to reconcile the West with the East, he offered to recognize Paulinus as Patriarch of Antioch.

Those who had acted against Saint Gregory on behalf of Maximus, particularly Egyptian and Macedonian bishops, arrived late for the Council. They did not want to acknowledge the saint as Patriarch of Constantinople, since he was elected in their absence.

Saint Gregory decided to resign his office for the sake of peace in the Church: “Let me be as the Prophet Jonah! I was responsible for the storm, but I would sacrifice myself for the salvation of the ship. Seize me and throw me… I was not happy when I ascended the throne, and gladly would I descend it.”

After telling the emperor of his desire to quit the capital, Saint Gregory appeared again at the Council to deliver a farewell address (Or. 42) asking to be allowed to depart in peace.

Upon his return to his native region, Saint Gregory turned his attention to the incursion of Appolinarian heretics into the flock of Nazianzus, and he established the pious Eulalius there as bishop, while he himself withdrew into the solitude of Arianzos so dear to his heart. The saint, zealous for the truth of Christ, continued to affirm Orthodoxy through his letters and poems, while remaining in the wilderness. He died on January 25, 389, and is honored with the title “Theologian,” also given to the holy Apostle and Evangelist John.

In his works Saint Gregory, like that other Theologian Saint John, directs everything toward the Pre-eternal Word. Saint John of Damascus (December 4), in the first part of his book An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, followed the lead of Saint Gregory the Theologian.

Saint Gregory was buried at Nazianzos. In the year 950, his holy relics were transferred to Constantinople into the church of the Holy Apostles. Later on, a portion of his relics was transferred to Rome.

In appearance, the saint was of medium height and somewhat pale. He had thick eyebrows, and a short beard. His contemporaries already called the archpastor a saint. The Orthodox Church, honors Saint Gregory as a second Theologian and insightful writer on the Holy Trinity. 

With Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Protopresbyter

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Weekly Bulletin for January 23, 2022

Weekly Bulletin for January 23, 2022

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message January 16, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I pray that the coming week is filled with God’s grace upon you and that His loving care surrounds and protects you. I am hearing from so many families who are affected by Covid in their homes. Please, prayerfully be well. Stay home if you are feeling symptomatic in any way. And do all you can to stamp out this spike.

At the beginning of the week, we will celebrate the lives of two important saints in the life of the Church: St. Anthony the Great (January 17) and St. Athanasios the Great (January 18). We will celebrate the Divine Liturgy on Monday only but include the hymns of both during services.

Saint Anthony the Great is known as the Father of monasticism, and the long ascetical sermon in The Life of Saint Anthony by Saint Athanasios (Sections 16-34), could be called the first monastic Rule.

He was born in Egypt in the village of Coma, near the desert of the Thebaid, in the year 251. His parents were pious Christians of illustrious lineage. Anthony was a serious child and was respectful and obedient to his parents. He loved to attend church services, and he listened to the Holy Scripture so attentively, that he remembered what he heard all his life.

When Saint Anthony was about twenty years old, he lost his parents, but he was responsible for the care of his younger sister. Going to church about six months later, the youth reflected on how the faithful,in the Acts of the Apostles (4:35), sold their possessions and gave the proceeds to the Apostles for the needy.

Then he entered the church and heard the Gospel passage where Christ speaks to the rich young man: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me” (Mt.19:21). Anthony felt that these words applied to him. Therefore, he sold the property that he received after the death of his parents, then distributed the money to the poor, and left his sister in the care of pious virgins in a convent.

Leaving his parental home, Saint Anthony began his ascetical life in a hut not far from his village. By working with his hands, he was able to earn his livelihood and also alms for the poor. Sometimes, the holy youth also visited other ascetics living in the area, and from each he sought direction and benefit. He turned to one particular ascetic for guidance in the spiritual life.

In this period of his life Saint Anthony endured terrible temptations from the devil. The Enemy of the race of man troubled the young ascetic with thoughts of his former life, doubts about his chosen path, concern for his sister, and he tempted Anthony with lewd thoughts and carnal feelings. But the saint extinguished that fire by meditating on Christ and by thinking of eternal punishment, thereby overcoming the devil.

Realizing that the devil would undoubtedly attack him in another manner, Saint Anthony prayed and intensified his efforts. Anthony prayed that the Lord would show him the path of salvation. And he was granted a vision. The ascetic beheld a man, who by turns alternately finished a prayer, and then began to work. This was an angel, which the Lord had sent to instruct His chosen one.

Saint Anthony tried to accustom himself to a stricter way of life. He partook of food only after sunset, he spent all night praying until dawn. Soon he slept only every third day. But the devil would not cease his tricks, and trying to scare the monk, he appeared under the guise of monstrous phantoms. The saint however protected himself with the Life-Creating Cross. Finally, the Enemy appeared to him in the guise of a frightful looking small dark figure, and hypocritically declaring himself beaten, he thought he could tempt the saint into vanity and pride. The saint, however, vanquished the Enemy with prayer.

For even greater solitude, Saint Anthony moved farther away from the village, into a graveyard. He asked a friend to bring him a little bread on designated days, then shut himself in a tomb. Then the devils pounced upon the saint intending to kill him and inflicted terrible wounds upon him. By the providence of the Lord, Anthony’s friend arrived the next day to bring him his food. Seeing him lying on the ground as if dead, he took him back to the village. They thought the saint was dead and prepared for his burial. At midnight, Saint Anthony regained consciousness and told his friend to carry him back to the tombs.

Saint Anthony’s staunchness was greater than the wiles of the Enemy. Taking the form of ferocious beasts, the devils tried to force the saint to leave that place, but he defeated them by trusting in the Lord. Looking up, the saint saw the roof opening, as it were, and a ray of light coming down toward him. The demons disappeared and he cried out, “Where have You been, O Merciful Jesus? Why didn’t You appear from the very beginning to end my pain?”

The Lord replied, “I was here, Anthony, but wanted to see your struggle. Now, since you have not yielded, I shall always help you and make your name known throughout all the world.” After this vision Saint Anthony was healed of his wounds and felt stronger than before. He was then thirty-five years of age.

Having gained spiritual experience in his struggle with the devil, Saint Anthony considered going into the Thebaid desert to serve the Lord. He asked the Elder (to whom he had turned for guidance at the beginning of his monastic journey) to go into the desert with him. The Elder, while blessing him in the then as yet unheard-of exploit of being a hermit, decided not to accompany him because of his age.

Saint Anthony went into the desert alone. The devil tried to hinder him, by placing a large silver disc in his path, then gold, but the saint ignored it and passed by. He found an abandoned fort on the other side of the river and settled there, barricading the entrance with stones. His faithful friend brought him bread twice a year, and there was water inside the fort.

Saint Anthony spent twenty years in complete isolation and constant struggle with the demons, and he finally achieved perfect calm. The saint’s friends removed the stones from the entrance, and they went to Saint Anthony and besought him to take them under his guidance. Soon Saint Anthony’s cell was surrounded by several monasteries, and the saint acted as a father and guide to their inhabitants, giving spiritual instruction to all who came into the desert seeking salvation. He increased the zeal of those who were already monks, and inspired others with a love for the ascetical life. He told them to strive to please the Lord, and not to become faint-hearted in their labors. He also urged them not to fear demonic assaults, but to repel the Enemy by the power of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord.

In the year 311 there was a fierce persecution against Christians, in the reign of the emperor Maximian. Wishing to suffer with the holy martyrs, Saint Anthony left the desert and went to Alexandria. He openly ministered to those in prison, he was present at the trial and interrogations of the confessors and accompanying the martyrs to the place of execution. It pleased the Lord to preserve him, however, for the benefit of Christians.

At the close of the persecution, the saint returned to the desert and continued his exploits. The Lord granted the saint the gift of wonderworking, casting out demons and healing the sick by the power of his prayer. The great crowds of people coming to him disrupted his solitude, and he went off still farther, into the inner desert where he settled atop a high elevation. But the brethren of the monasteries sought him out and asked him to visit their communities.

Another time Saint Anthony left the desert and arrived in Alexandria to defend the Orthodox Faith against the Manichaean and Arian heresies. Knowing that the name of Saint Anthony was venerated by all the Church, the Arians said that he adhered to their heretical teaching. But Saint Anthony publicly denounced Arianism in front of everyone and in the presence of the bishop. During his brief stay at Alexandria, he converted a great multitude of pagans to Christ.

People from all walks of life loved the saint and sought his advice. Pagan philosophers once came to Abba Anthony intending to mock him for his lack of education, but by his words he reduced them to silence. Emperor Constantine the Great (May 21) and his sons wrote to Saint Anthony and asked him for a reply. He praised the emperor for his belief in Christ, and advised him to remember the future judgment, and to know that Christ is the true King.

Saint Anthony spent eighty-five years in the solitary desert. Shortly before his death, he told the brethren that soon he would be taken from them. He instructed them to preserve the Orthodox Faith in its purity, to avoid any association with heretics, and not to be negligent in their monastic struggles. “Strive to be united first with the Lord, and then with the saints, so that after death they may receive you as familiar friends into the everlasting dwellings.”

The saint instructed two of his disciples, who had attended him in the final fifteen years of his life, to bury him in the desert and not in Alexandria. He left one of his monastic mantles to Saint Athanasius of Alexandria (January 18), and the other to Saint Serapion of Thmuis (March 21). Saint Anthony died peacefully in the year 356, at age 105, and he was buried in the desert by his disciples.

The Life of the famed ascetic Saint Anthony the Great was written by Saint Athanasius of Alexandria. This is the first biography of a saint who was not a martyr, and is considered to be one of the finest of Saint Athanasius’ writings. Saint John Chrysostom recommends that this Life be read by every Christian.

“These things are insignificant compared with Anthony’s virtues,” writes Saint Athanasius, “but judge from them what the man of God Anthony was like. From his youth until his old age, he kept his zeal for asceticism, he did not give in to the desire for costly foods because of his age, nor did he alter his clothing because of the infirmity of his body. He did not even wash his feet with water. He remained very healthy, and he could see well because his eyes were sound and undimmed. Not one of his teeth fell out, but near the gums they had become worn due to his advanced age. He remained strong in his hands and feet…. He was spoken of everywhere, and was admired by everyone, and was sought even by those who had not seen him, which is evidence of his virtue and of a soul dear to God.”

The following works of Saint Anthony have come down to us:

Twenty Sermons on the virtues, primarily monastic (probably spurious).

Seven Letters to various Egyptian monasteries concerning moral perfection, and the monastic life as a spiritual struggle.

A Rule for monastics (not regarded as an authentic work of Saint Anthony).

In the year 544 the relics of Saint Anthony the Great were transferred to Alexandria, and after the conquest of Egypt by the Saracens in the seventh century, they were transferred to Constantinople. The holy relics were transferred from Constantinople in the tenth-eleventh centuries to a diocese outside Vienna. In the fifteenth century they were brought to Arles (in France), to the church of Saint Julian. (Source OCA)

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony

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Pastoral Message December 12, 2021

You were a champion of the First Ecumenical Council, O Spyridon, our God-bearing Father and worker of miracles. You addressed your daughter who was dead and entombed, and you opportunely turned a snake into gold. There were Angels celebrating along with you, O sacred man, when you served the holy liturgy. Glory to Christ who glorified you! Glory to Him who put a crown on you! Glory to Him who through you gives cures and healing to all!

Hymn of St. Spyridon the Wonderworker

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Sunday, December 12th is the Feast Day of St. Spyridon the Wonderworker, Bishop of Tremithus. I offer a special Name Day greeting to His Grace Bishop Spyridon of Amastris. Formerly, Fr. Spencer Kezios, the longtime pastor and pastor emeritus of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Northridge, California. His Grace has been elevated for just over a year now, and it was a great blessing for me to attend his Ordination, and to serve as one of only two priests at his fist Hierarchical Divine Liturgy the following day. Bishop Spyridon’s Namesake is an important figure in our Church History. Let us learn about this wonderous saint.

Saint Spyridon of Tremithus was born towards the end of the third century on the island of Cyprus. He was a shepherd and had a wife and children. He used all his substance for the needs of his neighbors and the homeless, for which the Lord rewarded him with a gift of wonderworking. He healed those who were incurably sick and cast out demons.

After the death of his wife, during the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337), he was made Bishop of Tremithus, Cyprus. As a bishop, the saint did not alter his manner of life, but combined pastoral service with deeds of charity.

According to the witness of Church historians, Saint Spyridon participated in the sessions of the First Ecumenical Council in the year 325. At the Council, the saint entered into a dispute with a Greek philosopher who was defending the Arian heresy. The power of Saint Spyridon’s plain, direct speech showed everyone the importance of God’s wisdom before human wisdom: “Listen, philosopher, to what I tell you. There is one God Who created man from dust. He has ordered all things, both visible and invisible, by His Word and His Spirit. The Word is the Son of God, Who came down upon the earth on account of our sins. He was born of a Virgin, He lived among men, and suffered and died for our salvation, and then He arose from the dead, and He has resurrected the human race with Him. We believe that He is one in essence (consubstantial) with the Father, and equal to Him in authority and honor. We believe this without any sly rationalizations, for it is impossible to grasp this mystery by human reason.”

As a result of their discussion, the opponent of Christianity became the saint’s zealous defender and later received holy Baptism. After his conversation with Saint Spyridon, the philosopher turned to his companions and said, “Listen! Until now my rivals have presented their arguments, and I was able to refute their proofs with other proofs. But instead of proofs from reason, the words of this Elder are filled with some sort of special power, and no one can refute them, since it is impossible for man to oppose God. If any of you thinks as I do now, let him believe in Christ and join me in following this man, for God Himself speaks through his lips.”

At this Council, Saint Spyridon displayed the unity of the Holy Trinity in a remarkable way. He took a brick in his hand and squeezed it. At that instant fire shot up from it, water dripped on the ground, and only dust remained in the hands of the wonderworker. “There was only one brick,” Saint Spyridon said, “but it was composed of three elements. In the Holy Trinity there are three Persons, but only one God.”

The saint cared for his flock with great love. Through his prayers, drought was replaced by abundant rains, and incessant rains were replaced by fair weather. Through his prayers the sick were healed and demons cast out.

A woman once came up to him with a dead child in her arms, imploring the intercession of the saint. He prayed, and the infant was restored to life. The mother, overcome with joy, collapsed lifeless. Through the prayers of the saint of God, the mother was restored to life.

Another time, hastening to save his friend, who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death, the saint was hindered on his way by the unanticipated flooding of a stream. The saint commanded the water: “Halt! For the Lord of all the world commands that you permit me to cross so that a man may be saved.” The will of the saint was fulfilled, and he crossed over happily to the other shore. The judge, apprised of the miracle that had occurred, received Saint Spyridon with esteem and set his friend free.

Similar instances are known from the life of the saint. Once, he went into an empty church, and ordered that the lampadas and candles be lit, and then he began the service. When he said, “Peace be unto all,” both he and the deacon heard from above the resounding of a great multitude of voices saying, “And with thy spirit.” This choir was majestic and more sweetly melodious than any human choir. To each petition of the litanies, the invisible choir sang, “Lord, have mercy.” Attracted by the church singing, the people who lived nearby hastened towards it. As they got closer and closer to the church, the wondrous singing filled their ears and gladdened their hearts. But when they entered into the church, they saw no one but the bishop and several church servers, and they no longer heard the singing which had greatly astonished them.

Saint Simeon Metaphrastes (November 9), the author of his Life, likened Saint Spyridon to the Patriarch Abraham in his hospitality. Sozomen, in his Church History, offers an amazing example from the life of the saint of how he received strangers. One time, at the start of the Forty-day Fast, a stranger knocked at his door. Seeing that the traveler was very exhausted, Saint Spyridon said to his daughter, “Wash the feet of this man, so he may recline to dine.” But since it was Lent there were none of the necessary provisions, for the saint “partook of food only on certain days, and on other days he went without food.” His daughter replied that there was no bread or flour in the house. Then Saint Spyridon, apologizing to his guest, ordered his daughter to cook a salted ham from their larder. After seating the stranger at table, he began to eat, urging that man to do the same. When the latter refused, calling himself a Christian, the saint rejoined, “It is not proper to refuse this, for the Word of God proclaims, ‘Unto the pure all things are pure’” (Titus 1:15).

Another historical detail reported by Sozomen, was characteristic of the saint. It was his custom to distribute one part of the gathered harvest to the destitute, and another portion to those having need while in debt. He did not take a portion for himself, but simply showed them the entrance to his storeroom, where each could take as much as was needed, and could later pay it back in the same way, without records or accountings.

There is also the tale by Socrates Scholasticus about how robbers planned to steal the sheep of Saint Spyridon. They broke into the sheepfold at night, but here they found themselves all tied up by some invisible power. When morning came the saint went to his flock, and seeing the tied-up robbers, he prayed and released them. For a long while he advised them to leave their path of iniquity and earn their livelihood by respectable work. Then he made them a gift of a sheep and sending them off, the saint said kindly, “Take this for your trouble, so that you did not spend a sleepless night in vain.”

All the Lives of the saint speak of the amazing simplicity and the gift of wonderworking granted him by God. Through a word of the saint the dead were awakened, the elements of nature tamed, the idols smashed. At one point, a Council had been convened at Alexandria by the Patriarch to discuss what to do about the idols and pagan temples there. Through the prayers of the Fathers of the Council all the idols fell down except one, which was very much revered. It was revealed to the Patriarch in a vision that this idol had to be shattered by Saint Spyridon of Tremithus. Invited by the Council, the saint set sail on a ship, and at the moment the ship touched shore and the saint stepped out on land, the idol in Alexandria with all its offerings turned to dust, which then was reported to the Patriarch and all the bishops.

Saint Spyridon lived his earthly life in righteousness and sanctity, and prayerfully surrendered his soul to the Lord. His relics repose on the island of Corfu (Kerkyra), in a church named after him. His right hand, however, is located in Rome. (OCA)

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Weekly Bulletin for December 12, 2021

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Pastoral Message December 5, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I pray and trust that you are all well and that the joy of Christmastime is blessing your homes. When you come to church this weekend, tomorrow for St. Barbara, and Sunday, you will see a transformed space thanks to the gifted hands and eyes of Sandra Zoolakis and Stephanie Chachas. Thanks also to Chuck Karpakis for the heavy lifting and to Jim Karpakis for donating the large Christmas Tree that is placed in the sanctuary. Merry Christmas!

As you are surely aware, all of the ministry and administrative events that were scheduled for this Sunday have been supplanted to Sunday, December 12th. That is, Stewardship Sunday, the Special Parish Assembly, and the 2021 Parish Council Election. Please allow me to share some thoughts about these events.

Stewardship Sunday

For the past several years, we have treated the blessing of our Stewardship Offerings as a special and prayerful event. We have been distributing 2022 Pledge Packets for the past couple of weeks. It is important for people to pick them up as soon as possible. That way you have time to prayerfully contemplate your Pledge, and it saves the church the costs to mail these large envelopes. Please, please, please be swift, deliberate and thoughtful in your 2022 Pledge.

We will be mailing the packets out on Monday so that as many Pledge Cards as possible can be blessed upon the Altar as an offering to God. Since we are still not at pre-Covid capacity on Sundays, I presently have the fewest returned Pledge Cards at this point. Hope to see you in church this weekend, and with your packet in hand. Thanks in advance for your continued commitment!

Special Parish Assembly

At the Fall Parish Assembly, you were introduced to our final plans, layout and timeline for our massive renovation project. You have all been very patient and understanding as we conduct worship, fellowship, ministry activities, classes, rehearsals and meetings in the wide-open interior space of our building. God willing, and with the good pleasure of our St. Anna Community, we will soon have a permanent sanctuary, ballroom space, classrooms, new bathrooms, offices, a kitchen and storage. Not to mention the transformed exterior with the bell tower and appropriate crosses on the building. The entire cost will be about $2.5 million dollars. We have a plan. We have the means. We have the vision. We have the faith to execute such a large undertaking. Be sure to have your 2021 Stewardship up to date in order to vote. Be present and let your voice be heard.

On Monday, December 6th, the Feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, I am traveling to Denver to receive the blessing of Metropolitan Isaiah. I have not seen His Eminence since Covid times, and I am eager to be in his pastoral, warm and engaging presence. The specific purpose of my visit is to present to him the same information we will share at the Special Parish Assembly. Anything voted upon can only move forward with his guidance and permission. It is important that he see, beforehand, our intentions. That way, once the Assembly has spoken, he can proceed quickly with his archepastoral blessing upon our project. Let us build our House unto the glory of God!

Parish Council Election

There are five seats open on the Parish Council and nine people have been properly nominated to fill those positions for a two-year term. I wish I could just add all of these new candidates to our current and complete board. But that is not possible or my call to make. Your voice, the collective voice and individual voices of the parish, choose our leadership. Each and every one of them are capable, faithful and engaged. Please pray upon their names, faces and experiences. 

Jacob Dennis

Jacob currently assists Leo in the chanting of our services and also sings in the choir. He is in the technology field and has always demonstrated a tender love for our St. Anna parish.                           

Doug Felice

Though Doug is only recently Christmated in the Orthodox Faith, he has been a parishioner of St. Anna’s for the past two years. He is an engineering consultant and former Marine. Very committed. 

Tom Leitko

Tom is a retired professor, consultant and analyst. He has designed and executed all of our parish surveys and currently sits on or all-important Medical Advisory Ministry Team.  Tom is a gifted leader.                           

Elaine Peterson 

As the editor of our Parish Bulletin and chairman of our St. Anna Name Day Events, including last year’s successful dinner in honor of the Archbishop, Elaine is a capable and energetic leader.                     

Joseph Sasich

Currently sitting on our Parish Council, Joe brings a great wealth of wisdom, experience, humility and expertise – especially in construction/buildings, especially as we begin our buildout.

George Sergakis

Currently sitting on our Parish Council, George brings his expertise in insurance and business acumen to the parish and its leadership. George is an active, energetic and supportive leader. He’s funny, too!

Bruce Shand

Bruce has served before on our Parish Council, Legal Ministry Team and heads up our efforts in Sustained Giving. Highly organized, highly capable and always willing to serve, Bruce is trusted and valued. 

Steve Simos

Steve currently serves as the Vice President of our Parish Council and has been involved and vital to all decisions concerning operations, stewardship, communications and strategic planning.

Sam Soter

Sam is a successful businessman who then pursued the sacrificial vocation of education and became a high school teacher.  Highly engaging and capable. Sam is always willing to serve. 

If you are in need of an absentee ballot, please follow the instructions on the election notice that has been sent to all parishioners. Craig Stagg will send you a ballot and it will be returned to me. I, in turn will preesent all absentee ballots to the chairman of the election committee on the day of the election.  Well, I suppose this message was more administrative than pastoral. But let us all remember that the business, the activity and the very purpose of a Greek Orthodox Church is to witness, glorify, serve, and celebrate Christ. 

With Much Love in XC,
Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter