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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message October 10, 2021

O Word of the Father from before the ages, Who, being in the form of God, brought creation into being out of nothing; You Who put the times and seasons in Your own power: Bless the crown of the year with Your goodness; give peace unto Your churches, victory unto Your faithful hierarchs, fruitfulness unto the earth, and Great Mercy unto us.

Matins of the Indiction (Ecclesiastical New Year)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are blessed to live in one of the most spectacularly beautiful regions of our great nation. Look up to the Wasatch Mountain Range. Now that the smoke from California fires has been replaced with the mysterious and quick-moving clouds of thunder storms, we witness God’s splendor, creativity, and absolute awesomeness spread across the eastern sky.

The colors on Mt. Olympus and her accompanying cast of characters are changing rapidly. The brilliance of God’s command is exhibited to us through a pallet of which only He could have devised. The textures, shadows, colors and crispness of Autumn is unique among the seasons. Fall is my favorite season. Perhaps its the start of the school year. Maybe its the change in the weather. Could be the beautiful colors on the mountains, in our neighborhoods, and lining the roads. Probably football. At any rate, I love the beauty, experience and the very idea of Autumn.

In 3 Ecclesiastes we read, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” As the snow flies, we hunker down, replenish (hopefully) our water supplies, and enjoy the vast array of winter sports here in Utah. Springtime is renewal, anticipation, emergence and life. The summer months refresh our spirits, bring us together and permit us the time to reconnect. In Autumn, as the brightly-hewn leaves fall to the ground, our kids go back to “work,” the cycle of activities intensifies and while nature is going to sleep, society is roaring into second or  third gear. 

God is timeless. He knows no seasons. He does not ebb or flow. He does not rise or fall. He does not circle in orbit. He created the natural order for our benefit, but is not subject to it. So the celebration of the changing of the seasons is knowing that God is there all the while. Listening to our prayers. Granting our petitions. Shielding us from misguided requests.

Speaking to us through His saints, his angels, His eternal Logos made Incarnate. 

In the seasons, and in our spiritual lives, every aspect of reality flow into each other and co-exist in perfect harmony. While springtime may be well removed form autumn: death and life, darkness and light, warmth and coldness are not binary opposites; opposed to each other through means of conflict. Through Christ, death no longer has dominion. Physical death is simply the opportunity to await the glory of His eternal tomorrow. As the beautiful leaves fall, the tree sleeps. Only to emerge again in the glorious splendor of differing adornments. 

As we have entered into the Fall Season, please take the opportunity for spiritual renewal and  growth. The sacred services of the church are plentiful during this time of year. The social and educational programs of our parish are currently on the rise. And yes, our opportunities to illustrate our financial commitment to the ministries, programs and facilities of our parish are discussed now, more than any other time of year. 

St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church is alive! It experiences seasons. It cycles in and out of the daily lives of our people just as the sun rises and falls, and the days grow long and short. Please, always continue to make our Lord Jesus Christ as the center of our every purpose. 

Seasons change. Cycles continue.  In it all, there is Christ, Who indeed, “brought creation into being out of nothing.”

Fr. Anthony Savas

Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message September 19, 2021

Please Remember that next Sunday, September 26th, we will offer Fr. Matthew Gilbert’s Five-Year Memorial Service.Fr. Matthew was the former Dean of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Salt Lake City, UtahThe Very Reverend Archimandrite Chrysostomos Gilbert will preside over the Divine Liturgy and his father’s Memorial Service.A Luncheon hosted by the St. Anna Parish Council will follow, in honor of Fr. Mathew’s Memory and his family who will be in attendance. We welcome back, in particularly, our beloved Presbytera Denise Gilbert. MAY HIS MEMORY BE ETERNAL!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Just last week the Holy Eparchial Synod (The synod of Greek Orthodox Metropolitans in the USA, headed by the Archbishop) met for their annual fall meeting. They put out a communique following the meeting that has garnered much attention around the country. There are many stands and fronts, based on how the world reacts to, combats, and operates within today’s reality of living in a pandemic. Our Ecumenical Patriarch, Archbishop and all of our Metropolitans have been largely united in their efforts to govern the world-wide church in the midst of present realities.

Their messaging has been consistent, their directions have been sound and their aims are to keep our churches and society in general, safe from unnecessary harm or illness. 

Some of the statement deals with vaccinations. I have not been asked to write a letter for a religious exemption on receiving the Covid 19 vaccine. For that I am grateful. The statement of the Archbishop tucks that issue into bed nice and securely for me. 

But this communique does address something that is tied directly to our liturgical life. Several months ago, you may have noticed that within the divine services of the church, I stopped chanting the petitions that are specific to the pandemic. I figured, we are all getting vaccinated, it is decreasing, we have this handled. Finally, we are on the verge of eliminating this from our daily lives.

Our daily lives are, beyond any reasonable argument, are still affected by the continuing pandemic. More so now, perhaps, than a year ago.

So sadly, as directed by the decree of the Synod, we will be including, once again, the petitions which specifically address our prayers concerning the pandemic.

May our good Lord continue to bless, enlighten, encourage, sustain, inspire and protect us. God is Good. God is Love. God is Light. 

BREAKING NEWS – ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE HOLY EPARCHIAL SYNOD

COMMUNIQUE OF THE HOLY EPARCHIAL SYNOD

NEW YORK – On Thursday, September 16, 2021, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America convened a regular meeting of the Holy Eparchial Synod via video conference, in order to deliberate on significant matters that affect the Archdiocese of America.

At the beginning of the meeting, the synodical hierarchs with joy were informed of today’s communique of our Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, that His All-Holiness will indeed make his previously arranged visit to America, without postponement.

Discussing the topic of the vaccination of the faithful, the hierarchs unanimously affirmed that the Church not only permits vaccinations against diseases (e.g. polio, smallpox), but that She encourages Her Faithful, after medical tests and approbations, to be vaccinated with the approved vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
In addition, although some may be exempt from the vaccination for clear medical reasons, there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for Her faithful from any vaccination for religious reasons, including the coronavirus vaccine. For this reason, letters of exemption for the vaccination against the coronavirus for religious purposes issued by priests of the Archdiocese of America have no validity, and furthermore, no clergy are to issue such religious exemption letters for any reason.The Holy Eparchial Synod urges the faithful to pay heed to competent medical authorities, and to avoid the false narratives utterly unfounded in science and perpetrated on the Church by those who have succumbed to the disinformation and conspiracy theories that are widely available on social media sites.

The Synod also re-affirmed that the following two petitions continue to be included in “The Litany of Peace” of the Divine Liturgy and the other sacred services:

“For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger and necessity, and from the peril of the coronavirus against us, let us pray to the Lord.”

“For our brethren, those who lead the fight against the coronavirus, the doctors, the medical workers and the scientists, let us pray to the Lord.”

Finally, the Holy Synod with gratitude was informed that the Sacred Archdiocese was appointed as beneficiary of the late Suzanne Mados, who provided in her will a generous donation for the Greek Orthodox Schools of the Archdiocese as well as to the St. Michael’s Home for the Aged. It was decided that an Archepiscopal memorial service for the repose of her soul will be conducted by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America during the Divine Liturgy on Saturday, September 18, at the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior in Corona, New York.  

FROM THE CHIEF SECRETARIATE OF THE HOLY EPARCHIAL SYNOD

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message September 12, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am attaching many flyers to this week’s email. They are all important and reflect the busy time of year when the parish “wakes up” and ministries become active. Our Youth, Educational, Service and Outreach activities are in full swing. Please support the ministries and activities of our parish. We are looking forward to seeing you all back.
Remember, Sunday School begins this Sunday, September 12 with the Blessing of the New School Year. Classes will begin the following week. Welcome back students and teachers!

Lastly, as we solemnly approach the 20th Anniversary of the Attack on September 11, 2001, please pray for all victims. Listed are the names of the Greek Orthodox Christians who perished on that fateful day. 

May their Memories be Eternal!

Joanna Ahladiotis
Anastasios (Ernest) Alikakos
Alan Bondarenko
Katerina Bantis
Lieutenant Peter (Panagiotis) Brennan
Anthony Demas
Kontantinos Ekonomos
Anna Fosteris
Peter Hansen
Vassilios Haramis
John Katsimatidis
Danielle Kousoulis
Eskedar Melaku
George Merkouris
Peter Constantine Moutos
James Nicholas Papageorge
George Paris
Theodore Pigis
Daphne Pouletsos
Anthony (Tony) Savas
Derek Statkevicus
Andrew Stergiopoulos
Michael Tarrou
William Tselepis
Prokopios (Paul) Zois

With Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 29, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Typically, and especially for Sundays, my messages to you are positive and joy-filled. And even though we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ each and every Sunday, tomorrow is a day of sadness, grief, mourning and contemplation. August 29th is the Commemoration of the Beheading of John the Baptist. This year, this most-auspicious day falls on a Sunday. Let the day be blessed.

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 our Greek Orthodox tradition, pious people will not eat food from a flat platter or use a knife on the 29th of August.

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter