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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message June 9, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Risen!

Truly He is Risen!

This will be the last time I address you in my weekly message with the Christian, Clarion Call that Christ as indeed, risen from the dead. As the weeks of Pascha have continued to speedily press on, this coming Thursday, August 13th will be the 40th Day following our Lord’s divine and life-giving Resurrection. In other words, this coming Thursday, we will commemorate the Feast of our Lord’s Ascension.  Please, allow me to share what Fr. Thomas Hopko wrote in the first volume of his series on Orthodox teachings. This, from his study of the Nicene Creed in Book I, Orthodox Spirituality:

After His resurrection from the dead Jesus appeared to men for a period of forty days after which He “was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God”.

Mk 16.19; see also Lk 24.50 and Acts 1.9–11

The ascension of Jesus Christ is the final act of His earthly mission of salvation. The Son of God comes “down from heaven” to do the work which the Father gives Him to do; and having accomplished all things, He returns to the Father bearing for all eternity the wounded and glorified humanity which He has assumed (see e.g. Jn 17).

The doctrinal meaning of the ascension is the glorification of human nature, the reunion of man with God. It is indeed, the very penetration of man into the inexhaustible depths of divinity.

We have seen already that “the heavens” is the symbolical expression in the Bible for the uncreated, immaterial, divine “realm of God” as one saint of the Church has called it. To say that Jesus is “exalted at the right hand of God” as Saint Peter preached in the first Christian sermon (Acts 2.33) means exactly this: that man has been restored to communion with God, to a union which is, according to Orthodox doctrine, far greater and more perfect than that given to man in his original creation (see Eph 1–2).

Man was created with the potential to be a “partaker of the divine nature,” to refer to the Apostle Peter once more (2 Pet 1.4). It is this participation in divinity, called theosis (which literally means deification or divinization) in Orthodox theology, that the ascension of Christ has fulfilled for humanity. The symbolical expression of the “sitting at the right hand” of God means nothing other than this. It does not mean that somewhere in the created universe the physical Jesus is sitting in a material throne.

The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of Christ’s ascension in terms of the Jerusalem Temple. Just as the high priests of Israel entered the “holy of holies” to offer sacrifice to God on behalf of themselves and the people, so Christ the one, eternal and perfect High Priest offers Himself on the cross to God as the one eternal, and perfect, Sacrifice, not for Himself but for all sinful men. As a man, Christ enters (once and for all) into the one eternal and perfect Holy of Holies: the very “Presence of God in the heavens.”

. . . we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God . . . (Heb 4.14)

For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. . . . He has no need like those high priests to offer sacrifice daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once and for all when he offered up himself.

Now, the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle which is set up not by man but by the Lord (Heb 7.26; 8.2).

For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf (Heb 9.24).

. . . when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet (Heb 10.12–13; Ps 110.1).

Thus, the ascension of Christ is seen as man’s first entry into that divine glorification for which He was originally created. The entry is made possible by the exaltation of the divine Son who emptied Himself in human flesh in perfect self-offering to God.

Please, my beloved brothers and sisters, gaze more fervently, with a greater focus, and with a heightened sense of spiritual appreciation, upon the large icon of the Ascension on the northern ceiling panel of the St. Anna Altar. Place yourselves with the Disciples, in wonderment, confusion, a return to sadness and a feeling of repeated abandonment. Place yourself with the Theotokos, seeing her precious Son rising into the clouds, and taking his rightful place, enthroned once again at the right hand of the Father. Place yourself with the Angels, heralding, proclaiming, escorting and witnessing, during this dazzling spectacle.  And indeed, see yourself in Christ Jesus. Because to be sure, He rose into the heavens, to demonstrate that we are no longer tethered to the ground and destined for a grave. We were created to dwell with Him forever, inheritors of the Kingdom, children of the Father, members of His Body.

Please join us in prayer on Thursday, June 13th. Orthros is at 9:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy at 10:00 am.

And then, just as quickly, ten days later, our attention will be called toward the south ceiling of the Altar – to the Feast of Pentecost. 

With Much Love in our Lord Who is Ascend on the 40th Day,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Protopresbyter

Categories
Bulletins

Weekly Bulletin for June 9, 2024

Weekly Bulletin for June 9, 2024 Thyranoixia

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message June 2, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!

I trust and pray that you have enjoyed the blessings of a lovely week and you are looking forward to an amazing summer. Our entire community will continue to be in my prayers that you all remain safe during your travels, activities and events in the coming months. Summer is a time of refreshment and rejuvenation. It is also a time to remain close to the Church, actively worship, to remain focused in prayer, and aware of God’s love for us. 

Tomorrow, following the Divine Liturgy and celebration of our graduating seniors, we will go quickly into the social hall and begin our Spring Parish Assembly. This is the time we come together as the formal voice of the parish and conduct the administrative responsibilities of the community. This Assembly is for everyone who calls St. Anna their spiritual home. Those who can vote must be active Stewards in good standing with the Church. Please stick around for this most informative meeting. We promise to move it along as quickly as possible.

Tomorrow evening, we look forward to our Sunday School’s end of year BBQ and Advancement Party. God bless our youth, teachers, director, and parents for sustaining and growing this vital ministry. 

Next Saturday, we are excited to begin the activities of our Philoptochos with their Membership Tea. Our local chapter is active, vibrant, enthusiastic, generous and very productive.  

The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society, Inc. is the philanthropic arm of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Established in November 1931 by the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, it has been providing philanthropic aid for over 90 years through a variety of programs in the United States and around the world. Its mission is to assist the poor, destitute, hungry, aged, sick, unemployed, orphaned, imprisoned, widowed, those with disabilities, and victims of disasters. The society has 26,000 members and nearly 450 active chapters nationwide, and in 2023, it distributed $1.8 million in philanthropic aid.

Since the late 1950s, the society has placed increased emphasis on implementing programs to benefit the Greek Orthodox community, including support for Church institutions, the philanthropies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and assistance to Greek and Greek Orthodox families. It has also addressed various social and moral issues through committees focusing on topics such as child abuse prevention, domestic violence, homelessness, pornography, drug and alcohol abuse, and aging.

This is just a little bit of what is happening in the very near future. And looking to our immediate past, like, this morning, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Sam Soter and his entire committee for an incredibly successful and extremely fun St. Anna’s 5th Annual Golf Classic Tournament. Great time! Great Cause! Huge Effort! Thank you to all our volunteers, sponsors and golfers. 

With Love in our Risen Lord,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Bulletins

Weekly Bulletin for June 2, 2024

Weekly Bulletin for June 2, 2024 Philoptochos Membership 2024 Thyranoixia

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message May 26, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Risen!

Truly He is Risen!

I trust and pray that you and your families are well. We are heading into the summer months with a full head of steam, and the activities that will be taking place at St. Anna’s in the coming months are quite staggering. We will soon be ending our Sunday School Year, our annual Golf Tournament will take place, our Philoptochos will host their Membership Tea (replace tea with margarita’s), we have a full calendar of Sacraments to be celebrated, I will be attending our Metropolis Summer Camp with some of our youth, our new St. Anna Retreat at 8,000 Feet is on the calendar, the Bi-Annual National Clergy/Laity Congress is around the corner, and we haven’t even mentioned the Feasts of Ascension or Pentecost, yet! I am positive that I am forgetting something.

But there is something else I am certainly not forgetting, that is the biggest, singularly important, and the most historically significant event of the summer: the archepastoral visit to St. Anna’s by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America during the weekend of July 13-14, 2024. His Eminence is coming for what is known in Greek as the Thyranoixia – or the formal opening of the doors of a new church. I hope that we can all appreciate the magnitude of His Eminence’s desire to be with us as we finally complete our two-year long construction efforts. It is not standard practice for the spiritual leader of our National Church to conduct such services. Sandy, Utah may be the center of our spiritual lives, but it’s not exactly center stage throughout America.

But we must always remember our own history: when St. Anna’s was formally recognized as a parish of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, it was the newly installed Archbishop Elpidophoros who granted what was his first Charter. We were the first parish he formally established. And when he was here in 2021 to visit our parish on the eve of our Parish Feast Day, he promised to come back to the church, once completed, and open our doors. We accomplished our goals, we honored our promises, and we built our church. And he, honoring his promise to us, is returning to finish what we started. God is so good. I am so incredibly humbled by the fact that all of this is taking place and becoming a reality. It is so generous of His Eminence to take the time to be with us.

Let us also celebrate that this will be the first opportunity for us to welcome our new, local hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Constantine of Denver, who will be coming with the Archbishop. And friend to our St. Anna community, His Grace Bishop Spyridon of Amastris is also expected to participate. Three Bishops – Wow!

The details of the weekend’s events are quickly forming and will be communicated them to you very soon. Let us give thanks to our loving God, Who has made all these things possible, and let me give thanks to you, the visionary and generous parishioners of St. Anna’s, who have worked tirelessly for all that we enjoy. 

Quite a summer, right?!?

With Love in our Risen Lord,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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