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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 14, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Tomorrow morning, Sunday, August 14th, we will celebrate the Forefeast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. This is how the Church calls our full attention to the culmination of our Two-Week Fast in honor of the falling asleep of the Theotokos. For the past several evenings, we have gathered as a community of faith to pray the Paraklesis Service to the Mother of God, in preparation for the days immediately ahead. August 15th is referred to as the “Summer Pascha,” as we grieve the earthly loss of the Theotokos. She who inspires, protects, sustains, encourages, safeguards, consoles, sooths and uplifts will depart from this world and be lifted into eternity; to share a forever existence with her Son and her Lord, Jesus Christ. 

How deeply saddened must the Disciples have been at the hearing of her passing. Her continued ministry of prayer, courage and strength must have sustained them from the time of Christ’s Ascension, then into the extreme reaches of their missionary journeys. They traveled far and wide to spread the Good News of the Gospel and the message that Christ had indeed risen from the dead in order to free humankind from sin, death and destruction. As word spread of her death to each of them, I imagine that the pain of seeing their Lord on the Cross, revisited them, piercing the depths of their souls. Once again, they mourned.

We celebrate her passing because her goodness cannot be contained on earth. Her appointment from God to bear His Son and bring salvation to the world has now completed a full circle. She can now fully appreciate, understand and participate in the saving ministry of her Son. The ministry that she, herself made possible!

Hers is s ministry of generosity, grace, strength and selflessness. Which inspires the ministries of some other fine, ladies you may know.

Typically, I place an appropriate icon at the top of these messages, so you can be visually inspired before reading a single word of my humble, written offerings. But tonight, it is not an icon, but rather a photograph that “leads this story.”

A picture, not of the Theotokos, but rather, several women who continue her passion of caring, serving and giving. 

Last week, we received two dignitaries from the Metropolis of Denver Philoptochos Board. Current president, Stella Piches, and past president, Barbara Vittas visited the ladies of our (soon to be former) Women’s Ministry Team. They came to offer instruction and encouragement in the transformation of our local ministry effort, into an official Philoptochos Chapter at St. Anna’s. 

Philoptochos, which in Greek, literally means “Friends of the Poor,” is our national and Archdiocesan women’s philanthropic auxiliary. It is comprised of local chapters (in parishes), Metropolis Boards and an Archdiocesan Board. The work they do is nothing less than miraculous. They offer assistance in every capacity and serve the needs of those less fortunate throughout the world.

In other words, they do on a larger scale, what our women have been doing for the past eight years. Only now, our ladies will be going about their philanthropic work, tapping into the recourses of a greater, national body. In the coming weeks, once we receive our official charter number, we will set out to establish our St. Anna Philoptochos Chapter in Sandy, Utah.

I am ever grateful that Panaghia’s imprint of love for those in need is thriving, and central to the mission of St. Anna’s. There will be no greater witness of this than the ladies of our Philoptochos – together with our Men’s and Service Ministry Teams. The Theotokos, as she is assumed into the heavens will smile upon the work of our parish women. She will bless their efforts. She will strengthen their resolve. She will send her limitless love. 

Most Holy Theotokos, Intercede for Us!

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Weekly Bulletin for August 14, 2022

Weekly Bulletin for August 14, 2022 GOYA Hike 2022 YAL BBQ 2022 Sunday School 2022 Red Cross Blood Drive

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 7, 2022

You were transfigured upon the mountain, O Christ our God, showing to Your disciples Your glory as much as they could bear. Do also in us, sinners though we may be, shine Your everlasting light, by the intercessions of the Theotokos, O Giver of light. Glory to You.

Hymn of the Transfiguration of Christ

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In every Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church, we address our prayers and thanksgiving to God who is described as “ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever-existing and always the same.” This kind of language – which tries to describe God by saying what he is not – is called apophatic or “negative” language. Apophatic language is the language of prayer; it points to God’s majesty and transcendence while, at the same time, it conveys His presence. God is absolutely transcendent – beyond anything that we can know and experience – yet He is also present (immanent) and acts on behalf of us for our salvation. We will never fully understand Who God is. But we are pretty sure of what His is not.

The Feasts of the Church celebrate those acts of salvation. They not only remember certain special events but make Christ present to us in those events through the power of the Holy Spirit. In the feast of the Nativity of Christ, we see revealed to us the mystery of God’s incarnation in the flesh. God manifests Himself to us, reveals Himself to us as man while yet remaining God. The feast of the Nativity of Christ is the celebration of that act of God revealing Himself to us, in His Coming to earth as a man. In the feast of Theophany, we see Christ revealed as the “Beloved Son” of God the Father.

At Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, God makes it clear that this man Jesus is truly the “Son of God.” And now, as we prepare to celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ tomorrow morning, we see Christ being revealed in all His divine glory. In each feast Christ comes to us now, manifests or makes Himself present to us so that we can come to truly know Him.
The feast of Christ’s transfiguration – metamorphosis – celebrated on August 6 was introduced as a separate feast with all its major characteristics sometime between the sixth and eighth centuries. It was more widely known in the East than in the West and takes on a greater significance for Eastern Christians.

The Fathers of the Church stress in their sermons that Jesus, when He was transfigured before His disciples, did not add anything to His nature that He did not possess before, but revealed what He already was. Jesus’ humanity was not changed into divinity at the Transfiguration; He was divine, but in this event, His divine glory was revealed.
Several details appear in the event which express also the unity of the Old and New Testaments. The appearance of Jesus with Moses and Elijah indicates that Jesus is not a violator of the law, nor a blasphemer, but the one whom the law and the prophets had looked toward. The past (Moses and Elijah), the present (the kingdom of God already here) and the future (crucifixion, resurrection and the world to come) make up the content of the event.

The early Fathers regarded the Transfiguration, like Epiphany, as a sign of the transformation of human nature and of the reality of salvation. For salvation, they stressed, cannot be accomplished without the transfiguration of human nature by the power of God. Therefore, the feast of the Transfiguration is also the day of the celebration of the deification (theosis) of human nature. On this day all human nature was illuminated by the divine transfiguration. In this event, humanity reveals divinity. Finally, the Trinity is revealed in the Transfiguration, as it was in the Epiphany.

The Transfiguration of Christ is a major Feast of Christ. Let us enjoy it together. 

With Much Love in our Transfigured Lord,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Weekly Bulletin for August 7, 2022

Weekly Bulletin for August 7, 2022 YAL BBQ 2022 Sunday School 2022 Paraklesis in the Garden 2022 Philoptochos Invitation Red Cross Blood Drive

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message July 31, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings from the Parish Fishing Trip at Strawberry Reservoir! The time spent up here in fun and fellowship has been a tremendous blessing to the community. While I will remain up here for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy tomorrow morning, Fr. Elias will be at St. Anna’s. Enjoy the blessings of Sunday Worship, either up at the lake or down at the church! Indeed, Sunday will be beautiful. And then, of course, please make your preparations for the following Monday as the Fast of the Dormition begins. And with the Fast, we also receive the lovely opportunity to pray the Paraklesis Service for the next two weeks. 

Please receive and appreciate the following thoughts on the season by Fr. Alexander Goussetis, the director of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Cener for Family Care. 

On August 15th, Orthodox Christians celebrate the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Theotokos. This feast honors the Virgin Mary, through whom the mystery of the Incarnation took place. The two weeks preceding the feast, August 1-14, represent a time of prayer and fasting. Liturgically, the Church offers a wonderful prayer service called the Paraklesis to the Theotokos.

For anyone who suffers from grief, depression, sorrow, or anxiety, the Paraklesis is a welcome salve to the soul. Although the gospel message of Jesus Christ is one of joy, the Paraklesis service recognizes that everyone, from time to time, experiences emotional and spiritual pain. Rather than isolating ourselves or feeling shame over our distress, the Paraklesis extends to us an invitation to share that pain with the

Theotokos, asking for her prayers and comfort.

Listen to these verses from hymns chanted during the service:

I entreat you, O Virgin, disperse the storm of my grief, and my souls most inward confusion, scatter it far from me…

Heal me from the ills, which the passions bring, most pure one, make me worthy of your guiding care. And unto me grant health, through your intercessions and your prayer.

Whatever emotional or spiritual state we find ourselves in, the message throughout the Paraklesis service is that God accepts and affirms us. We are welcomed and consoled whether our suffering is from despair or hopelessness, fear or isolation, grief or rejection. It is important to note that not once does the Paraklesis attribute our suffering to a lack of faith. Instead, we are allowed to see things as they are and to give voice to our feelings. Being permitted to name things as they are and not as they “should” be or “must” be can be cathartic and transformative.

The Paraklesis service, however, does not leave us in our wounded state. We are invited to start where we are emotionally and spiritually, and to slowly ascend to enlightenment, peace, hope, and the knowledge that God is the Physician of our souls and bodies. Listen to these verses that illustrate this point:

Pure one fill my heart, with a merriment, a happiness; bestow on me your spotless joy…

With the brightness of your light, dispel the darkness of my sins, O bride of God who gave birth to the divine and eternal Light!

We seek to pass through our sorrows, not to revel in them. As much as we cannot hide from the experience of darkness, so too we can never become so accustomed to dwelling therein that we do not try to find the light. This service is a holy avenue toward that light.

So how can families benefit liturgically from the Dormition fast?

  1. Attend as many of the Paraklesis services as you can. Offered on most weeknights, the child-friendly service is completed in less than one hour. By following along in the service book or chanting together with the congregation, the Paraklesis will offer hope and inner peace on daily basis. Many find the melodies so uplifting and infectious that they begin chanting portions of the service at home during their family prayer time.
  2. Help your children write a list of names of those whom you would like to intercede for and submit it to your parish priest. The Paraklesis service not only seeks the intercessions of the Theotokos for ourselves, but we are called to intercede for others. Writing the names of friends and foes on a prayer list is a concrete expression of our love for others.
  3. Either for yourself or with older children, write a list of concerns and pray about them during the service. Jesus wants us to share with him all of our thoughts, desires, and challenges in life. Writing a list of concerns and lifting them up to God is a sign of trust and openness. It welcomes God into the most intimate places of our soul.

Listen to the words of one of the final hymns of the Paraklesis service:

O Mother of God most high . . .

You are joy to the distressed; you are strength to the oppressed; you are food to those who sink into despair.

You console strangers; you support the blind; you visit the sick. You are shelter to the weary; you are comfort to the crushed; you are heavenly assistance to the orphans.

Mother of our God, guard me with care within your sheltered arms.

With God’s grace, may we enter this Dormition fast period with a sense of purpose and expectation.

For the most part, our Paraklesis Services will be celebrated outside in our Garden. Bring your lawn chair. Enjoy the Night Air. Gather under the protection of the Theotokos. 

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Weekly Bulletin for July 31, 2022

Weekly Bulletin for July 31, 2022 Paraklesis in the Garden 2022 Philoptochos Invitation Red Cross Blood Drive

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Weekly Bulletin for July 24, 2022

Weekly Bulletin for July 24, 2022 Name Day Picnic 2022 Philoptochos Invitation Red Cross Blood Drive

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Pastoral Message July 17, 2022

Adorned with the beauty of Purity, O Virgin; crowned with the stigmata of martyrdom; stained with the blood of your struggles; and brilliantly radiant with healing wonders, piously, O Marina, you received the trophy of victory for your struggles.

Kontakion Hymn of St. Marina

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Tomorrow, as we gather for Sunday Services, we will commemorate one of the most popular and well-known Woman Martyr Saints, St. Marina of Antioch. She, along with others like Ss. Barbara, Katherine, and Paraskevi are remembered for their bravery, grace, witness, and strength.

The Holy Great Martyr Marina was born in Asia Minor, in the city of Antioch of Pisidia (southern Asia Minor), into the family of a pagan priest. In infancy she lost her mother, and her father gave her into the care of a nursemaid, who raised Marina in the Orthodox Faith.

Upon learning that his daughter had become a Christian, the father angrily disowned her. During the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), when she was fifteen years old, Saint Marina was arrested and locked up in prison. With firm trust in the will of God and His help, the young prisoner prepared for her impending fate.

The governor Olymbrios, charmed with the beautiful girl, tried to persuade her to renounce the Christian Faith and become his wife. But the saint, unswayed, refused his offers. The vexed governor gave the holy martyr over to torture. Having beaten her fiercely, they fastened the saint with nails to a board and tore at her body with tridents. The governor himself, unable to bear the horror of these tortures, hid his face in his hands. But the holy martyr remained unyielding.

Thrown for the night into prison, she was granted heavenly aid and healed of her wounds. They stripped her and tied her to a tree, then burned the martyr with fire. Barely alive, the martyr prayed: “Lord, You have granted me to go through fire for Your Name, grant me also to go through the water of holy Baptism.”

St. Marina is also known to have been tormented in her prison cell by a demon, manifested as a dragon. Finding a hammer, she beat on the demon, thus identifying her as the “vanquisher of demons.” This is why she is often depicted ichnographically with a cross in one hand, and a hammer in the other.  

Hearing the word “water”, the governor gave orders to drown the saint in a large cauldron. The martyr besought the Lord that this manner of execution should become for her holy Baptism. When they plunged her into the water, there suddenly shone a light, and a snow-white dove came down from Heaven, bearing in its beak a golden crown. The fetters put upon Saint Marina came apart by themselves. The martyr stood up in the fount of Baptism glorifying the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Saint Marina emerged from the fount completely healed, without any trace of burns. Amazed at this miracle, the people glorified the True God, and many came to believe. This brought the governor into a rage, and he gave orders to kill anyone who might confess the Name of Christ. 15,000 Christians perished there, and the holy Martyr Marina was beheaded. The sufferings of the Great Martyr Marina were described by an eyewitness of the event, named Theotimos.

Up until the taking of Constantinople by Western crusaders in the year 1204, the relics of the Great Martyr Marina were in the Panteponteia Monastery. According to other sources, they were located in Antioch until the year 908 and from there transferred to Italy. Now they are in Athens, in a church dedicated to the holy Virgin Martyr. Her venerable hand was transferred to Mount Athos, to the Vatopedi monastery.

As we learn of the lives of the saints, it is my prayer that we acquire strength and inspiration from their tribulations, and intercessions before God through their pious prayers. St. Marina, pray for us!

Please be advised that this week, we will celebrate two weekday services. On Wednesday, we will celebrate the Feast of The Great Prophet Elias, and on Friday, two other pillars of the Church’s synaxis of women saints: St. Mary Magdaline, Myrrh Bearer and Equal to the Apostles, together on the shared Feast Day of the Virgin Great Martyr Markella of Chios. Both services begin with the Orthros at 8:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy at 9:00 am. 

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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