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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message April 11, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we draw near to our celebration of Pascha, several weeks after our Catholic and Protestant Brothers and Sisters, I thought this article was a fantastic resource to understand why there is such a wide difference in this year’s dates, how the dates are calculated, and just as importantly, how the dates are NOT calculated. Enjoy…

SOME COMMON MISPERCEPTIONS ABOUT THE DATE OF PASCHA/EASTER
by Archon John Fotopoulos

Originally Posted on Public Orthodoxy

This essay was first published in 2017. It has been updated for 2021.

A common misperception among Orthodox Christians is that Orthodox Easter (i.e. Pascha) often occurs so much later than Western Christian Easter because the Orthodox Church abides by the rules for calculating the date of Pascha issued by the 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in AD 325. Another element of this misperception is the belief that the Orthodox Church must wait for Passover to be celebrated by the Jewish community before Pascha may occur. Despite these views being held by so many Orthodox Christians, as well as being promoted in popular essays written by some Orthodox priests, they are inaccurate. The reason why Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs so much later than Easter celebrated by Roman Catholics and Protestants is neither because the Orthodox Church follows the Paschal formula of Nicaea, nor is it because the Western Churches fail to adhere this formula. It is also not because the Orthodox Church must wait for the Jewish celebration of Passover. Rather, Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs later than Western Easter because the Orthodox Church uses inaccurate scientific calculations that rely on the inaccurate Julian Calendar to determine the date of Pascha for each year. Some background information is necessary to help explain precisely what the problems are.

Historically, Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred in association with Jewish Passover, although the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matt, Luke) and the Gospel of John contain differences regarding the precise day of Passover at that time. In light of these differences, early Christian churches developed distinct practices regarding when they were to celebrate Christian Pascha and how the date of Pascha was to be determined. Some ancient Churches celebrated Pascha on the Sunday immediately following Jewish Passover, while others emphasized Jesus’ suffering and death on Pascha and thus celebrated the feast on the same day as Jewish Passover, regardless of what day of the week Passover occurred.  Christian communities that adhered to either one of these Paschal traditions often relied on local Jewish communities’ calculations of Passover in order to determine the date of their respective Christian Pascha. Passover is itself a lunar festival marking the beginning of the new year and is to occur annually on the vernal full moon—a date that came to be designated in the Jewish Calendar as the 14th of Nisan (Exod 12:1-6). Ancient Jewish communities faced many challenges in regulating their year by a lunar calendar.  Because the Jewish lunar calendar frequently fell out of step with the seasons of a solar year, Jews could add an additional month to their calendar every two or three years to correct Passover from occurring out of season. A late decision to add a month to the Jewish calendar and/or difficulties communicating meant that not all Jewish communities were always aware of the extra month. This resulted in some Jewish communities celebrating Passover in different months, while other Jewish communities ended up mistakenly celebrating Passover twice in the same year.
Because of Christian dependence on unreliable Jewish calculations of the vernal full moon for Passover, and because of the varying Christian traditions for the date of Pascha’s celebration, the 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicaea convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine attempted to resolve these issues and promote Christian unity, issuing a formula for the calculation of Pascha. The Council at Nicaea determined that Pascha would occur on:
the first Sunday after | the first full moon occurring | on or after the vernal equinox
This Nicene formula solved several practical issues. First, the Church determined that Pascha would not be celebrated on the same day as the vernal full moon which itself is to mark the festival of Jewish Passover. By resolving to celebrate Pascha on the first Sunday after the vernal full moon, Christian Pascha would forever be associated with Jewish Passover without being identified with it, thus maintaining the historical associations of Jesus’ death and resurrection with Passover. Second, by resolving that the Christian celebration of Pascha must occur annually after the vernal equinox, the Church ensured that Pascha would only occur once each solar year. Third, the Nicene formula itself meant that the Church would not be reliant on Jewish calendars for the calculation of Passover (the vernal full moon i.e. 14 Nisan), nor would the Church be obliged to wait for Jewish communities to celebrate Passover before celebrating Christian Pascha. Rather, the Nicene formula ensured that the Christian calculation of Pascha would occur independently of the Jewish reckoning of Passover by instead using the astronomical data of the vernal equinox and the vernal full moon in order to calculate the Sunday of Pascha. This maintained the historical and theological associations between Jewish Passover and Christian Pascha, while allowing the Church to ascertain the vernal full moon (i.e., what should be 14 Nisan and hence Passover) without Jewish calendrical problems. Because Alexandria, Egypt was known as a premier center of astronomy in the ancient world, the Church of Alexandria came to assume responsibility in the Eastern Church for making scientific calculations used to determine the date of Pascha. Although today many rigorist Orthodox assert that it is only permissible to use the Julian Calendar to determine Paschal dates by employing the ancient Alexandrian scientific calculations, this is to ignore that the Alexandrian Christians used their own Egyptian calendrical dates to calculate Pascha which were then translated into Julian Calendar dates for other parts of the empire. Moreover, although the Council of Nicaea issued a clear formula for the calculation of Pascha, it did not precisely regulate the technical details, methods, or calendar by which the vernal equinox and the vernal full moon should be determined. Rather, Alexandria assumed greater responsibility for making Paschal calculations because the Church expected that the best scientific means available would be used to determine Paschal dates.
While the Orthodox Church and the Western Churches both continue to follow the formula of Nicaea for the determination of Pascha/Easter, the differences in their respective dates of celebration stem largely from the use of different calendars (Julian vs. Gregorian) and different methods of scientific calculation so as to ascertain the vernal equinox and vernal full moon. The Orthodox Church employs a complex mathematical formula to calculate the date of Pascha. This formula uses the more inaccurate Julian Calendar (currently 13 days behind the Gregorian Calendar) and a “fixed” Julian Calendar date of March 21st (Gregorian Calendar, April 3rd) as the vernal equinox. The Orthodox Church also utilizes a mathematically calculated approximation of the vernal full moon based on a 19-year lunar cycle (the Metonic Cycle). The actual astronomical vernal equinox, however, occurs between 13 to 15 days earlier (Julian Calendar, March 6th-8th; Gregorian Calendar, March 19th-21st) than the aforementioned Orthodox “fixed” Julian Calendar’s vernal equinox. In other words, the vernal equinox used by the Orthodox Church for its calculation of Pascha is not the actual astronomical vernal equinox, nor is the vernal full moon—which Pascha must follow according to Nicaea—the actual astronomical vernal full moon. Simply stated, the best available calendar and best available science are no longer being utilized for the calculation of Pascha. This results in Orthodox celebrations of Pascha that are frequently out of sync with the astronomical phenomena of the vernal equinox and the vernal full moon. Thus, Orthodox Pascha often occurs later in the spring. However, the Western Churches use the Gregorian Calendar (a much more accurate calendar—although not perfect) and a more accurate scientific calculation of the vernal equinox and vernal full moon. This results in a more accurate calculation of Easter which better corresponds with the actual astronomical phenomena.
In this year of 2021, for example, Orthodox Pascha is celebrated four weeks later than Western Easter. Western Easter occurs on April 4th, whereas Orthodox Pascha falls on May 2nd (Julian Calendar, April 19th). However, a quick look at the actual astronomical data clearly demonstrates the problems with the current Orthodox calculation of Pascha. According to NASA, the 2021 vernal equinox occurs on March 20th at 9:37 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). However, it is important to remember that the date and time of the vernal equinox depend on the meridian used for calculation (the position on earth used as the reference point). Therefore, it is generally agreed that Jerusalem should be used as the meridian since it is the historical location of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Thus, the 2021 vernal equinox occurs in Jerusalem on March 20th at 11:37 (UTC+2). Moreover, according to NASA, the first full moon after the vernal equinox in 2021 occurs on March 28th at 18:48 (UTC), and in Jerusalem on March 28th at 21:48 (UTC+3 due to Israel Daylight Time). Since the vernal full moon in Jerusalem on March 28th at 21:48 (UTC+3) is a Sunday, this means that Pascha 2021 should be celebrated on the first Sunday afterward, which is Sunday, April 4th—precisely the date that Easter is celebrated in 2021 by the Western Churches.
According to the complex mathematical formula currently in use by the Orthodox Church for the calculation of Pascha—without reference to actual astronomical phenomena—the vernal full moon for 2021 has been calculated as occurring on May 1st (Julian Calendar, April 18th). However, through simple, non-scientific observation a person could look at the astronomical phenomena visible in the sky on May 1st, 2021 to understand that there will not be a full moon on that date. Rather, the moon will actually be in a waning gibbous on May 1st, 2021 with 75% of the moon’s visible disk illuminated. The lack of a full moon on that date will be evident in Jerusalem—as well as in Chicago. Rather, in those two locations (and throughout Western Europe and North America) the vernal full moon will occur much earlier, on Sunday, March 28th, 2021. Consequently, Orthodox Pascha in 2021 will be especially out of sync with the actual astronomical phenomena linked to an accurate calculation of the Paschal date. In fact, on April 27th, 2021 the second full moon of spring will occur in Jerusalem. This means that the Orthodox celebration of Pascha on May 2nd, 2021 will actually occur on the first Sunday after the second full moon of spring!
It was widely understood by ancient Christians that the vernal full moon could not be determined reliably by observation since what sometimes appears to the eye as a full moon may not, in fact, be one. This is one of the reasons why after Nicaea, different Churches in communion with one another developed a wide variety of scientific/mathematical calculations over the centuries to determine the vernal full moon needed to arrive at the date of Pascha. However, scientific methods have advanced significantly since the time of antiquity, as has our ability to reliably know the dates of the vernal equinox and the vernal full moon for any given year. In 1920, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople raised the issue of all Churches employing a common calendar so that Eastern and Western Churches could celebrate major Christian feast days together throughout each year. Moreover, in 1923 a Pan-Orthodox Congress under the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople advocated using a more accurate Revised Julian Calendar (similar to the Gregorian Calendar), while also returning to the actual astronomical phenomena of the vernal equinox and vernal full moon for the calculation of Pascha. Divisive reactions against adoption of a new calendar and new Paschal calculations resulted in a compromise that allowed autocephalous Orthodox Churches to choose the old Julian Calendar or the new Revised Julian Calendar to regulate the ecclesiastical year. However, the old Julian Calendar and the scientific calculations based on it were maintained for the determination of Paschal dates.
In light of the many calendrical and scientific advances today, Orthodox Christians must ask themselves if it is still faithful to the spirit of the 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicaea to use the inaccurate Julian Calendar, a “fixed” Julian Calendar date of March 21st (Gregorian Calendar, April 3rd) for the vernal equinox, and a mathematically calculated approximation of the vernal full moon for Pascha’s calculation. Although a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate has recently asserted that the Orthodox Church’s current method of Paschal calculation is a “dogmatic issue” and “to depart from it means to lose touch with the Orthodox tradition,” nothing could be further from the truth. Nicaea issued its formula for the calculation of Pascha so that Christians everywhere would celebrate the most important Christian feast together in unity as a common witness to the world. Nicaea did not precisely regulate the technical details, methods, or calendar by which the vernal equinox and vernal full moon would be determined, but expected the best available science to be used for the calculation of Pascha. Certainly, the best available science is no longer being used for Pascha’s calculation, resulting in Orthodox Paschal dates that do not adhere to the Orthodox tradition established by Nicaea.
During the 21st century, the Orthodox and Western Churches will share a common celebration of Pascha only 31 times. In subsequent centuries, the shared celebration of Pascha will occur much less frequently as errors in the Julian Calendar become more pronounced. This will result in Orthodox Pascha occurring even later in the year and more severely out of relationship with the vernal equinox and vernal full moon. Over time, the celebration of Orthodox Pascha will drift later into spring, into summer, and beyond. Unless action is taken, the year AD 2698 will be the final time that Orthodox Pascha and Western Easter occur on the same day. There may eventually be generations of Christians who are sadly led to believe that Orthodox and Western Christians have never celebrated Pascha/Easter together.
A consultation on Pascha/Easter under the World Council of Churches occurred in 1997 between representatives of the Orthodox Church and Western Churches. This resulted in an excellent statement on and thoughtful recommendations for a common celebration of Pascha. Unfortunately, these recommendations were never implemented. It is time that Orthodox Christians again begin to discuss this important issue of Paschal calculation and celebration, while also moving past widespread misperceptions among Orthodox Christians regarding the reasons why Pascha frequently occurs so much later than Western Easter.
To be sure, Western Christians do utilize the formula issued by Nicaea for the calculation of Pascha, while Orthodox Christians do not need to wait for the Jewish celebration of Passover before Orthodox Pascha may occur.  Rather, the use of a more accurate calendar and more accurate scientific calculations by the Orthodox Church are needed for Orthodox Pascha to happen once again each year on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox—and again together with our Western Christian brothers and sisters.
John Fotopoulos is an Associate Professor of New Testament in the Department of Religious Studies at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana.

Fr. Anthony Savas

Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message April 4, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Third Sunday of Lent is that of the Veneration of the Cross. The cross stands in the midst of the Church in the middle of the Lenten season not merely to remind us of Christ’s redemption and to keep before us the goal of our efforts, but also to be venerated as that reality by which man must live to be saved. “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10.38). For in the Cross of Christ Crucified lies both “the power of God and the wisdom of God” for those being saved (1 Cor 1.24).

With Much Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message March 28, 2021

Beacon of Orthodox belief, the strong support of the Church and her teacher inspired by God, you are the ornament of monks, the unassailable champion of theologians, O Gregory the Wonder-worker and the boast of Thessalonica, the messenger of grace. Forever earnestly entreat for the salvation of our souls.

Hymn of St. Gregory Palamas

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Sunday is the Second Sunday of Great Lent . We have all reached a precious milestone. This Sunday was originally dedicated to Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (February 23). But following the formal recognition of sainthood for St. Gregory Palamas in 1368 on November 14,, a second commemoration was also appointed to him for the Second Sunday of Great Lent as a second “Triumph of Orthodoxy.”

Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, was born in the year 1296 in Constantinople. Saint Gregory’s father became a prominent dignitiary at the court of Andronicus II Paleologos (1282-1328), but he soon died, and Andronicus himself took part in the raising and education of the fatherless boy. Endowed with fine abilities and great diligence, Gregory mastered all the subjects which then comprised the full course of medieval higher education. The emperor hoped that the youth would devote himself to government work. But Gregory, barely twenty years old, withdrew to Mount Athos in the year 1316 (other sources say 1318) and became a novice in the Vatopedi monastery under the guidance of the monastic Elder Saint Nikodemos of Vatopedi (July 11). There he was tonsured and began on the path of asceticism. A year later, the holy Evangelist John the Theologian appeared to him in a vision and promised him his spiritual protection. Gregory’s mother and sisters also became monastics.

After the demise of the Elder Nikodemos, Saint Gregory spent eight years of spiritual struggle under the guidance of the Elder Nicephorus, and after the latter’s death, Gregory transferred to the Lavra of Saint Athanasius (July 5). Here he served in the trapeza, and then became a church singer. But after three years, he resettled in the small skete of Glossia, striving for a greater degree of spiritual perfection. The head of this monastery began to teach the young man the method of unceasing prayer and mental activity, which had been cultivated by monastics, beginning with the great desert ascetics of the fourth century: Evagrius Pontikos and Saint Macarius of Egypt (January 19).

Later on, in the eleventh century Saint Simeon the New Theologian (March 12) provided detailed instruction in mental activity for those praying in an outward manner, and the ascetics of Athos put it into practice. The experienced use of mental prayer (or prayer of the heart), requiring solitude and quiet, is called “Hesychasm” (from the Greek “hesychia” meaning calm, silence), and those practicing it were called “hesychasts.”

During his stay at Glossia the future hierarch Gregory became fully embued with the spirit of hesychasm and adopted it as an essential part of his life. In the year 1326, because of the threat of Turkish invasions, he and the brethren retreated to Thessalonica, where he was then ordained to the holy priesthood.

Saint Gregory combined his priestly duties with the life of a hermit. Five days of the week he spent in silence and prayer, and only on Saturday and Sunday did he come out to his people. He celebrated divine services and preached sermons. For those present in church, his teaching often evoked both tenderness and tears. Sometimes he visited theological gatherings of the city’s educated youth, headed by the future patriarch, Isidore. After he returned from a visit to Constantinople, he found a place suitable for solitary life near Thessalonica the region of Bereia. Soon he gathered here a small community of solitary monks and guided it for five years.

In 1331 the saint withdrew to Mt. Athos and lived in solitude at the skete of Saint Savva, near the Lavra of Saint Athanasius. In 1333 he was appointed Igumen of the Esphigmenou monastery in the northern part of the Holy Mountain. In 1336 the saint returned to the skete of Saint Savva, where he devoted himself to theological works, continuing with this until the end of his life.

In the 1330s events took place in the life of the Eastern Church which put Saint Gregory among the most significant universal apologists of Orthodoxy, and brought him great renown as a teacher of hesychasm.

About the year 1330 the learned monk Barlaam had arrived in Constantinople from Calabria, in Italy. He was the author of treatises on logic and astronomy, a skilled and sharp-witted orator, and he received a university chair in the capital city and began to expound on the works of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite (October 3), whose “apophatic” (“negative”, in contrast to “kataphatic” or “positive”) theology was acclaimed in equal measure in both the Eastern and the Western Churches. Soon Barlaam journeyed to Mt. Athos, where he became acquainted with the spiritual life of the hesychasts. Saying that it was impossible to know the essence of God, he declared mental prayer a heretical error. Journeying from Mount Athos to Thessalonica, and from there to Constantinople, and later again to Thessalonica, Barlaam entered into disputes with the monks and attempted to demonstrate the created, material nature of the light of Tabor (i.e. at the Transfiguration). He ridiculed the teachings of the monks about the methods of prayer and about the uncreated light seen by the hesychasts.

Saint Gregory, at the request of the Athonite monks, replied with verbal admonitions at first. But seeing the futility of such efforts, he put his theological arguments in writing. Thus appeared the “Triads in Defense of the Holy Hesychasts” (1338). Towards the year 1340 the Athonite ascetics, with the assistance of the saint, compiled a general response to the attacks of Barlaam, the so-called “Hagiorite Tome.” At the Constantinople Council of 1341 in the church of Hagia Sophia Saint Gregory Palamas debated with Barlaam, focusing upon the nature of the light of Mount Tabor. On May 27, 1341 the Council accepted the position of Saint Gregory Palamas, that God, unapproachable in His Essence, reveals Himself through His energies, which are directed towards the world and are able to be perceived, like the light of Tabor, but which are neither material nor created. The teachings of Barlaam were condemned as heresy, and he himself was anathemized and fled to Calabria.

But the dispute between the Palamites and the Barlaamites was far from over. To these latter belonged Barlaam’s disciple, the Bulgarian monk Akyndinos, and also Patriarch John XIV Kalekos (1341-1347); the emperor Andronicus III Paleologos (1328-1341) was also inclined toward their opinion. Akyndinos, whose name means “one who inflicts no harm,” actually caused great harm by his heretical teaching. Akyndinos wrote a series of tracts in which he declared Saint Gregory and the Athonite monks guilty of causing church disorders. The saint, in turn, wrote a detailed refutation of Akyndinos’ errors. The patriarch supported Akyndinos and called Saint Gregory the cause of all disorders and disturbances in the Church (1344) and had him locked up in prison for four years. In 1347, when John the XIV was replaced on the patriarchal throne by Isidore (1347-1349), Saint Gregory Palamas was set free and was made Archbishop of Thessalonica.

In 1351 the Council of Blachernae solemnly upheld the Orthodoxy of his teachings. But the people of Thessalonica did not immediately accept Saint Gregory, and he was compelled to live in various places. On one of his travels to Constantinople the Byzantine ship fell into the hands of the Turks. Even in captivity, Saint Gregory preached to Christian prisoners and even to his Moslem captors. The Hagarenes were astonished by the wisdom of his words. Some of the Moslems were unable to endure this, so they beat him and would have killed him if they had not expected to obtain a large ransom for him. A year later, Saint Gregory was ransomed and returned to Thessalonica.

Saint Gregory performed many miracles in the three years before his death, healing those afflicted with illness. On the eve of his repose, Saint John Chrysostom appeared to him in a vision. With the words “To the heights! To the heights!” Saint Gregory Palamas fell asleep in the Lord on November 14, 1359. In 1368 he was canonized at a Constantinople Council under Patriarch Philotheus (1354-1355, 1364-1376), who compiled the Life and Services to the saint. (OCA)

With Much Love in XC,


Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message March 21, 2021

Remember that this Thursday, March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation! Great Vespers are at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, March 24th. Orthros begins the following morning at 8:00, the Divine Liturgy at 9:00 am, followed by a Doxology for the 200 Year Anniversary of Greek Independence. The hard-fought liberation of the Greek People after 400 Years of Ottoman suppression, abuse and indignity is a celebration of freedom and sanctity throughout the world. Join us for this dual celebration!

Fr. Anthony SavasAttachments1:03 AM (5 hours ago)
to Anthony

Remember that this Thursday, March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation! Great Vespers are at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, March 24th. Orthros begins the following morning at 8:00, the Divine Liturgy at 9:00 am, followed by a Doxology for the 200 Year Anniversary of Greek Independence. The hard-fought liberation of the Greek People after 400 Years of Ottoman suppression, abuse and indignity is a celebration of freedom and sanctity throughout the world. Join us for this duel celebration!

Image result for sunday of orthodoxy icon

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Rejoicing in the triumph of Orthodoxy on the first Sunday of Lent, we joyfully commemorate three events: one event belonging to the past; one event to the present; and one event which still belongs to the future.

Whenever we have any feast or joy in the Church, we Orthodox first of all look back — for in our present life we depend on what happened in the past. We depend first of all, of course, on the first and the ultimate triumph—that of Christ Himself. Our faith is rooted in that strange defeat which became the most glorious victory — the defeat of a man nailed to the cross, who rose again from the dead, who is the Lord and the Master of the world. This is the first triumph of Orthodoxy. This is the content of all our commemorations and of all our joy. This man selected and chose twelve men, gave them power to preach about that defeat and that victory, and sent them to the whole world saying preach and baptize, build up the Church, announce the Kingdom of God. And you know, my brothers and sisters, how those twelve men — very simple men indeed, simple fishermen — went out and preached. The world hated them, the Roman Empire persecuted them, and they were covered with blood. But that blood was another victory.

The Church grew, the Church covered the universe with the true faith. After 300 years of the most unequal conflict between the powerful Roman Empire and the powerless Christian Church, the Roman Empire accepted Christ as Lord and Master. That was the second triumph of Orthodoxy. The Roman Empire recognized the one whom it crucified and those whom it persecuted as the bearers of truth, and their teaching as the teaching of life eternal. The Church triumphed. But then the second period of troubles began.

The following centuries saw many attempts to distort the faith, to adjust it to human needs, to fill it with human content. In each generation there were those who could not accept that message of the cross and resurrection and life eternal. They tried to change it, and those changes we call heresies. Again there were persecutions. Again, Orthodox bishops, monks and laymen defended their faith and were condemned and went into exile and were covered with blood. And after five centuries of those conflicts and persecutions and discussions, the day came which we commemorate today, the day of the final victory of Orthodoxy as the true faith over all the heresies. It happened on the first Sunday of Lent in the year 843 in Constantinople. After almost 100 years of persecution directed against the worship of the holy icons, the Church finally proclaimed that the truth had been defined, that the truth was fully in the possession of the Church. And since then all Orthodox people, wherever they live, have gathered on this Sunday to proclaim before the world their faith in that truth, their belief that their Church is truly apostolic, truly Orthodox, truly universal. This is the event of the past that we commemorate today.

But let us ask ourselves one question: Do all the triumphs of Orthodoxy, all the victories, belong to the past? Looking at the present today, we sometimes feel that our only consolation is to remember the past. Then Orthodoxy was glorious, then the Orthodox Church was powerful, then it dominated. But what about the present? My dear friends, if the triumph of Orthodoxy belongs to the past only, if there is nothing else for us to do but commemorate, to repeat to ourselves how glorious was the past, then Orthodoxy is dead. But we are here tonight to witness to the fact that Orthodoxy not only is not dead but also that it is once more and forever celebrating its own triumph — the triumph of Orthodoxy. We don’t have to fight heresies among ourselves, but we have other things that once more challenge our Orthodox faith.

Today, gathered here together, Orthodox of various national backgrounds, we proclaim and we glorify first of all our unity in Orthodoxy. This is the triumph of Orthodoxy in the present. This is a most wonderful event: that all of us, with all our differences, with all our limitations, with all our weaknesses, can come together and say we belong to that Orthodox faith, that we are one in Christ and in Orthodoxy. We are living very far from the traditional centers of Orthodoxy. We call ourselves Eastern Orthodox, and yet we are here in the West, so far from those glorious cities which were centers of the Orthodox faith for centuries — Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Moscow. How far are those cities. And yet, don’t we have the feeling that something of a miracle has happened, that God has sent us here, far into the West, not just in order to settle here, to increase our income, to build up a community. He also has sent us as apostles of Orthodoxy, so that this faith, which historically was limited to the East, now is becoming a faith which is truly and completely universal.

This is a thrilling moment in the history of Orthodoxy. That is why it is so important for us to be here tonight and to understand, to realize, to have that vision of what is going on. People were crossing the ocean, coming here, not thinking so much about their faith as about themselves, about their lives, about their future. They were usually poor people, they had a difficult life, and they built those little Orthodox churches everywhere in America not for other people but for themselves, just to remember their homes, to perpetuate their tradition. They didn’t think of the future. And yet this is what happened: the Orthodox Church was sent here through and with those poor men. The truth itself, the fullness of the apostolic faith—all this came here, and here we are now, filling this hall and proclaiming this apostolic faith — the faith that has strengthened the universe. And this leads us to the event which still belongs to the future.

If today we can only proclaim, if we can only pray for that coming triumph of Orthodoxy in this country and in the world, our Orthodox faith forces us to believe that it is not by accident but by divine providence that the Orthodox faith today has reached all countries, all cities, all continents of the universe. After that historic weakness of our religion, after the persecutions by the Roman Empire, by the Turks, by the godless atheists, after all the troubles that we had to go through, today a new day begins. Something new is going to happen. And it is this future of Orthodoxy that we have to rejoice about today.

We can already have a vision of that future when, in the West, a strong American Orthodox Church comes into existence. We can see how this faith, which for such a long time was an alien faith here, will become truly and completely universal in the sense that we will answer the questions of all men, and also all their questions. For if we believe in that word: “Orthodoxy,” “the true faith”; if for one moment we try to understand what it means: the true, the full Christianity, as it has been proclaimed by Christ and His disciples; if our Church has preserved for all ages the message of the apostles and of the fathers and of the saints in its purest form, then, my dear friends, here is the answer to the questions and to the problems and to the sufferings of our world. You know that our world today is so complex. It is changing all the time. And the more it changes, the more people fear, the more they are frightened by the future, the more they are preoccupied by what will happen to them. And this is where Orthodoxy must answer their problem; this is where Orthodoxy must accept the challenge of modern civilization and reveal to men of all nations, to all men in the whole world, that it has remained the force of God left in history for the transformation, for the deification, for the transfiguration of human life.

The past, the present, the future: At the beginning, one lonely man on the cross — the complete defeat. And if at that time we had been there with all our human calculations, we probably would have said: “That’s the end. Nothing else will happen.” The twelve left Him. There was no one, no one to hope. The world was in darkness. Everything seemed finished. And you know what happened three days later. Three days later He appeared. He appeared to His disciples, and their hearts were burning within them because they knew that He was the risen Lord. And since then, in every generation, there have been people with burning hearts, people who have felt that this victory of Christ had to be carried again and again into this world, to be proclaimed in order to win new human souls and to be the transforming force in history.

Today this responsibility belongs to us. We feel that we are weak. We feel that we are limited, we are divided, we are still separated in so many groups, we have so many obstacles to overcome. But today, on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, we close our eyes for a second and we rejoice in that unity which is already here: priests of various national churches praying together, people of all backgrounds uniting in prayer for the triumph of Orthodoxy. We are already in a triumph, and may God help us keep that triumph in our hearts, so that we never give up hope in that future event in the history of orthodoxy when Orthodoxy will become the victory which eternally overcomes all the obstacles, because that victory is the victory of Christ Himself.

As we approach the most important moment of the Eucharist, the priest says, “Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess….” What is the condition of the real triumph of Orthodoxy? What is the way leading to the real, the final, the ultimate victory of our faith? The answer comes from the Gospel. The answer comes from Christ Himself and from the whole tradition of Orthodoxy. It is love. Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess . . . confess our faith, our Orthodoxy. Let us, from now on, feel responsible for each other. Let us understand that even if we are divided in small parishes, in small dioceses, we first of all belong to one another. We belong together, to Christ, to His Body, to the Church. Let us feel responsible for each other, and let us love one another. Let us put above everything else the interests of Orthodoxy in this country. Let us understand that each one of us today has to be the apostle of Orthodoxy in a country which is not yet Orthodox, in a society which is asking us: “What do you believe?” “What is your faith?” And let us, above everything else, keep the memory, keep the experience, keep the taste of that unity which we are anticipating tonight.

At the end of the first century — when the Church was still a very small group, a very small minority, in a society which was definitely anti-Christian when the persecution was beginning — St. John the Divine, the beloved disciple of Christ, wrote these words: “And this is the victory, our faith, this is the victory.” There was no victory at that time, and yet he knew that in his faith he had the victory that can be applied to us today. We have the promise of Christ, that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. We have the promise of Christ that if we have faith, all things are possible. We have the promise of the Holy Spirit, that He will fill all that which is weak, that He will help us at the moment when we need help. In other words, we have all the possibilities, we have everything that we need, and therefore the victory is ours. It is not a human victory which can be defined in terms of money, of human success, of human achievements. 

Today is the triumph of Orthodoxy, and a hymn sung today states solemnly and simply: “This is the Apostolic faith, this is the Orthodox faith, this is the faith of the Fathers, this is the faith that is the foundation of the world.” My dear brothers and sisters, this is also our own faith. We are chosen. We are elected. We are the happy few that can say of our faith, “apostolic,” “universal,” “the faith of our fathers,” “Orthodoxy,” “the truth.” Having this wonderful treasure, let us preserve it, let us keep it, and let us also use it in such a way that this treasure becomes the victory of Christ in us and in His Church. Amen. (From the Orthodox Church in America)

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message March 14, 2021

We were expelled of old, O Lord, from the Garden of Eden, for wrongly eating from the tree. But, O my God and Savior, You once again have restored us through Your Cross and Your Passion. Thereby, O Master, fortify and enable us purely to finish Lent and to worship Your holy resurrection, Pascha our saving Passover, by the prayers of Your Mother.                 

Hymn of Forgiveness Sunday

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Sunday, the final Day of the Lord which precedes Great and Holy Lent is known as Forgiveness Sunday. It is the final day of the Triodion Period and stands as the entrance to what will be our “new normal” for the next 50+ days. Our Lenten journey will be filled with successes, struggles, victories, defeats, highs, lows, celebrations, laments, good days, and, likely some not-so-good days. 

But from the time we tasted of the fruit of the forbidden tree, stood ashamedly before God, blamed the other for our own offences, found ourselves expelled from the Kingdom, and felt true isolation, we have yearned to reconcile with God. Thankfully for us, He pined equally for union as well.

Standing in sharp contrast to the theme of forgiveness which defines this Sunday morning and evening, the Church also commemorates on this day the horrific event of our Expulsion from the Garden. Look upon the icon at the top of this message. Even as a mere fragment of the image, the depiction is clear. The Archangel Michael has his hands on Adam, literally shoving him away. There is a gate behind him, guarded by the Cherubim so that no man or woman could enter therein.

The eyes of our forefather and foremother are downcast and crestfallen. Their hands are lifted in a posture of self defense. But regrettably, they have no defense. The eyes of the angel are peering, laser-focused and stern. He is doing God’s bidding. He is casting out human kind from their natural environment, from their comfortable existence, and their familiar surroundings. Their every need was met. Their every, wholesome desire was fulfilled and they lived in a perpetual state of bliss. At least they should have.

But they ate from a tree that was forbidden, and suffered the consequences. Orthodox theology is quite clear on this concept: the Church does not teach the false doctrine of “original sin,” as the West supports. While we inherit the circumstances and the consequences of the Fall, we do not suffer, or participate in the actual guilt of Adam’s sin. The consequences are bad enough. 

Adam and Eve’s desire to acquire God’s knowledge as their own, as the serpent promised, was their downfall and the commencement of our woes. Every ill, malady, vice, addiction and disease flooded around us from that point and challenges our every moment to this day. Ironically, their hunger for that which was not theirs to take, is the direct cause of literal hunger in the world today.

My Beloved in the Lord, as we begin our new life in Christ through the Great Fast, I would like to introduce to you a new and ongoing ministry that will begin on Monday, March 15th, the First Day of Lent: 

St. Anna Food Support Program

In response to the critical need to address hunger in our community, St. Anna is establishing our Church building as a permanent collection/drop-off location to supplement two local pantries that distribute food items to families in need throughout the Sandy and greater area.

Donations of nonperishable food items can be brought to Church on designated days and times below and delivered regularly to the pantries at Copperview Food and Resource Center, operated by Utah Community Action, and Diamond Ridge Alternative High School/Entrada Adult High School in the Canyons School District. Both pantries partner with Utah Food Bank.

The pantries have provided a list of basic, most-needed food items, which will be collected on an ongoing basis. Additional requests for urgently needed items will be addressed by coordinating short-term mini-drives/projects with various parish ministries. Moving forward, we will expand our collection efforts to incorporate donations from the community. (See flyer with the attachments and in the Bulletin)

Most needed food items

Canned meats (tuna, chicken, salmon, etc.); canned vegetables, canned chili, peanut butter, jelly, Top Ramen, Instant Mac and Cheese, Cup O’ Noodle (other instant meals); rice; flour, sugar, dry milk, and granola bars

Donation drop-off

Drop-off days/times: Sundays 9:00 am -12:00 noon and Tuesdays 9:00-11:00 am. Place donated items in the large blue bin in the Fellowship Hall. All donations from the above list are appreciated. Families can also join together to purchase case goods (e.g., WinCo Foods, Costco, Sam’s Club, etc.).

Please do not misunderstand and think this is a passing food drive or seasonal project. The collection bin will be a permanent fixture at St. Anna’s. It will serve with the same level of importance as the altar table itself. It is my fervent prayer that going forward, when we prepare ourselves to come to church, it will be completely natural to always have in hand a case of peanut butter or a flat of canned green beans. Food insecurity is a very real and pervasive reality in our surrounding neighborhood. This project was developed out of a desired partnership between local faith leaders and school officials of the Canyons School District. 

We will help to supply small, local, educationally-based food pantries that serve the needs of thousands of families per year.

The realities of the Fall are just that…realities. Together, we as a community who strive for, and work towards the return to God’s Kingdom will do so, in part, but giving back was taken away at the Fall: dignity and sustenance.

This is an on-going project under the umbrella of our Service Ministry Team, and supported by our Men’s and Women’s Ministry Teams.

For questions, call Kathy Shand or Ann Sasich. 

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Remember to participate in this year’s Lenten Challenge and pick up your free copy of “Toolkit for Spiritual Growth” at the St. Anna Bookstore. Gain insight into the spiritual principles of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Follow the five-week Study Guide and enhance your experience with the following link:

https://1788c8d2-cf52-49c6-b300-646496512c90.filesusr.com/ugd/17a549_d9de527ab76e4f81ae1a4bfaf7983f22.pdf

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message March 7, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I pray you are enjoying what has been a most lovely, sunny and warm day today. Next Sunday evening, we will begin our Lenten Journey with the Sunday Great Vespers of Forgiveness. Within that service, Great Lent will begin and the entire tone and meter of the Church will set our hearts, minds, bodies and souls on a path toward enlightenment, discipline, prayer and connection – connection to God, connection to each other and a connection to the Cross.

In order to enhance your Lenten efforts, I wish to invite you and your families to another Lenten Challenge; similarly to what we did two years ago. Through our St. Anna Altar Fund, we have purchased enough copies of Fr. Evan Armatas’ book, “Toolkit for Spiritual Growth – A Practical Guide to Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving” for our entire parish.

Unlike last time, when I asked you to purchase “Tending the Garden of our Hearts,” a copy of this book will be waiting for you, as Stewards of St. Anna, beginning next Sunday. We will be distributing them from the St. Anna Book Store. This simple, yet inspirational guide will walk you through the primary pillars of Lent; prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and hopefully inspire you to incorporate a newly-discovered awareness and inspiration that will transform your every day living. 

The author has graciously written a brief introduction to the book specifically for our parish and offers his encouragement and support of our efforts to grow in Christ through Lenten praxis.

I will also be including information on Ancient Faith Publishing’s Five-Week Study Guide to the book. This will help you as individuals and as families to generate discussions and learn together.

We started a tradition of these Lenten Family Challenges, and I am grateful to continue this practice, as it was enthusiastically received. I still hear of people discussing the lingering and positive effects it had on families.

So, remember, if you are a Steward of St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church, please come by during services and pick up your free copy at the Bookstore.

Why are we not mailing these to every household in the parish? Well, postage is an obvious answer. The not-so-obvious answer is, quite frankly, that it’s time I start actively inviting you to church once again. 

Great Lent is the perfect opportunity to test these waters. There are many, many services available to you throughout the week. Literally every day but Thursday, there is at least one service taking place LIVE at the church. Please, re-introduce yourselves to an active, Orthodox Christian life of liturgical participation. We were shocked and disappointed when our worship was taken from us. Let’s now answer that pain and frustration with a joyful return.

No, the pandemic is not over. We are not out of danger and we must remain vigilant and aware. But our dedication to safety, the expansion of vaccinations in the state, and our continued awareness of local, governmental standards is at the point where we need to start thinking about our plans to return to a vibrant worshipping community. 

Masks are still obviously required. We are still unable to offer hospitality of food and beverage fellowship. The choir is still unable to chant and participate. There are still reminders that things are different and require our attention, sacrifice and patience. That said, your church is waiting for a full and vibrant effort on all our part in anticipation of Holy Week and Pascha.

I am so very excited to see you all, pray together and celebrate our love for Christ with a unified voice. 
Come, get your book. Sit with your family, or dedicate time with yourself, to learn, grow, stretch and flourish in your Faith.

May our Loving Lord guide your every step and effort in the coming weeks.

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message February 28, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Though I am ever grateful for the increasing number of people returning to church for live Sunday worship, and for the people who continue to participate liturgically through live streaming, it is completely obvious that there are still many people who are either still uncomfortable in gathering together in church, or, regrettably, have settled into the habit of just being away. 

Gratefully, the day will come, sooner rather than later, when we will all feel confident in being together for prayer, and will re-engage ourselves in the once-vibrant life of our St. Anna parish. I look forward to active ministries, a full church, laughter and discussions ringing through the span of our space, the voices and footsteps of children, abundant fellowship, an appreciation of our lovely grounds, and in-person learning opportunities. 

Though our new reality of separation was thrust upon us swiftly and suddenly, the return to a full complement of services, ministries, classes, gatherings and fellowship will take time. But already, the process has begun, as we plan for, look forward to, and anticipate our post-pandemic life at home, work, school, in society and at church!

So whether we are coming to church for live Liturgies, or participating digitally, let us begin to make steps toward a fuller worship experience. If we are more engaged in the Liturgy, and saturating ourselves with the inspirational and salvific practices of Eucharistic life, then, and only then, can we look forward to all other aspects of the spiritual walk and a productive life in the church. In other words, let us begin the rebuilding of the individual and collective spirit.

Where to begin? Communion Itself. 

I have included in this message a litany of pre-Communion Prayers and post-Communion Prayers. If you want to truly understand the depth of God’s mercy, the span of His love and the generosity of His Gifts, read the prayers of Communion in the Orthodox Church. 

Seriously. Read these prayers. They will truly make you ache to return to the Chalice. They will compel you to action. They will bring peace. They will stir your soul.

They will reveal our starvation, while feeding our hunger.

The Eucharist is Life Itself.

Christ.

In the coming weeks as we prepare for, and enter into Great and Holy Lent, my communications with you will be intended to reintroduce, reinvigorate and reinvest ourselves in attending to the spirt, as we worship The Spirit. Together with the Father and the Son. One God. The Holy Trinity.

Enjoy and devour the following words. Offer them to God as prayer, and receive them yourselves as wisdom.

Prayers in Preparation of Receiving Holy Communion

First Prayer of Saint Basil the Great

Master Lord Jesus Christ our God, the Source of life and immortality, Who are the Maker of all creation, both visible and invisible, the co-eternal and co-beginingless Son of the eternal Father, Who in the abundance of Your goodness were in the last days clothed in flesh, were crucified and buried for us, the ungrateful and thankless ones, and by Your own Blood refashioned our nature which had been corrupted by sin: O immortal King, accept the repentance even of me the sinner, and incline Your ear to me and hear my words. For I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned against heaven and before You, and I am not worthy to gaze on the height of Your glory; for I have provoked Your goodness by transgressing Your commandments and not obeying Your ordinances.

But in Your forbearance, patience, and great mercy, You, O Lord, have not given me up to be destroyed with my sins, but You await my complete conversion.

For You Who love mankind have said through Your Prophet that You desire not the death of the sinner, but that he should return to You and live. For You do not will, O Lord, that the work of Your hands should be destroyed, neither do You delight in the destruction of men, but You desire that all should be saved and come to a knowledge of the Truth.

Therefore, though I am unworthy both of heaven and earth, and even of this transient life – since I have completely succumbed to sin and am a slave to pleasure and have defaced Your image, yet being Your work and creation, wretch that I am, – even I do not despair of my salvation and dare to draw near to Your boundless compassion.

Wherefore receive even me, O Christ Who Loves mankind, as the harlot, as the thief, as the publican, and as the prodigal; and take from me the heavy burden of my sins: You Who take away the sin of the world, Who heal men’s sicknesses, Who call the weary and heavy laden to Yourself and give them rest; for You came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. And cleanse me from all defilement of flesh and spirit.

Teach me to attain perfect holiness in the fear of You, that with the clear witness of my conscience I may receive a portion of Your holy Things and be united with Your holy Body and Blood, and have You dwelling and remaining in me with the Father and Your Holy Spirit.

And, O Lord Jesus Christ, my God, do not let the communion of Your immaculate and life-giving Mysteries be to me for condemnation, nor let it make me sick in body or soul through my partaking of them unworthily; but rather grant that until my last breath I may receive a portion of Your holy Things without condemnation, for communion with the Holy Spirit, as a provision for eternal life, and as an acceptable defense at Your dread tribunal, so that I, too, with all Your elect may become a partaker of Your pure joys which You have prepared for those who love You, O Lord, in whom You are glorified throughout the ages. Amen.

Second Prayer of Saint Basil the Great

I know, O Lord, that I partake of Your immaculate Body and precious Blood unworthily, and that I am guilty, and eat and drink judgment to myself by not discerning the Body and Blood of You, my Christ and God.

But, trusting in Your compassion, I take courage and approach You, for You have said: “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me and I in him.”

Wherefore have compassion, O Lord, and do not make an example of me, the sinner, but deal with me according to Your mercy; and let these Holy Things be for my healing, and purification, and enlightenment, and protection, and salvation, and sanctification of body and soul; for the turning away of every fantasy, and all evil practice, and diabolical activity working subconsciously in my members; for confidence and love towards You; for reformation of life and stability; for an increase of virtue and perfection; for fulfillment of the commandments; for communion with the Holy Spirit; as a provision for eternal life; and as an acceptable defense at Your dread Tribunal, not unto judgment nor unto condemnation.

Third Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom

Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy or sufficient that You should come under the roof of the house of my soul, for all is desolate and fallen, and You do not have within me a place fit to lay Your head.

But even as from on high You humbled Yourself for our sake, so now conform Yourself to my humility.

And as You consented to lie in a cave and in a manger of irrational beasts, so also consent to lie in the manger of my irrational soul and to enter my defiled body.

And as You did not disdain to enter and dine with sinners in the house of Simon the Leper, so consent also to enter the house of my humble soul which is leprous and sinful.

And as You did not reject the woman who was a harlot and a sinner like me, when she approached and touched You, so also be compassionate with me, the sinner, as I approach and touch You, and let the live coal of Your most-holy Body and precious Blood be for the sanctification, and enlightenment, and strengthening of my humble soul and body; for a relief from the burden of my many sins; for a protection from all diabolical practices; for a restraint and a check on my evil and wicked way of life; for the mortification of passions; for the keeping of Your commandments; for an increase of Your divine grace; and for the advancement of Your Kingdom.

For it is not as one insolent and presumptuous that I draw near to You, O Christ my God, but as one taking courage from Your ineffable goodness, so that having long abstained from Your communion I may not become a prey to the noetic wolf.

Therefore, I pray to You, O Lord, Who alone are holy: sanctify my soul and body, my mind and heart, my emotions and affections, and wholly renew me.

Root in my members the fear of You, and make Your sanctification indelible within me.

Be also my Helper and Defender, guide my life in peace, and make me worthy to stand on Your right hand with Your Saints; through the prayers and intercessions of Your all-pure Mother, of Your ministering Angels, of the immaculate Powers, and of all the Saints who have been well-pleasing to You. Amen.

Fourth Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom

I am not worthy, O Lord and Master, that You should enter under the roof of my soul; but since You, in Your love for men, do will to dwell in me, I take courage and I draw near.

You command: I will open wide the gates which You alone created, that You may enter with love as is Your nature, that You may enter and enlighten my darkened thought.

I believe that You will do this, for You did not banish the harlot who approached You with tears, nor did You reject the Publican who repented, nor did You drive away the thief who acknowledged Your Kingdom, nor did You abandon the repentant persecutor Paul as he was; but You established all who had been brought to You by repentance in the company of Your friends, O You Who alone are blessed always, now and to endless ages. Amen.

Fifth Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom

Lord Jesus Christ my God, loose, remit, forgive, absolve, and pardon the sins, offenses and transgressions which I, Your sinful, useless and unworthy servant have committed from my youth, up to the present day and hour, whether in knowledge or in ignorance, whether by words or in deeds, whether in my intentions or in my thoughts, and whether by habit or through any of my senses.

And through the intercession of her who conceived You without seed, the all-pure and ever-virgin Mary Your Mother, my only sure hope and protection and salvation, make me worthy to receive without condemnation Your pure, immortal, life-giving and fearful Mysteries, unto forgiveness of sins and for eternal life; for sanctification, and enlightenment, and strength, and healing, and health of soul and body; and for the blotting out and complete destruction of my evil reasonings, and intentions, and prejudices, and the nocturnal fantasies of dark evil spirits.

For Yours is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, and the honor, and the worship, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Sixth Prayer of Saint John of Damascus

Master, Lord Jesus Christ our God, Who alone have authority to forgive men their sins, in Your goodness and love for men overlook all my offenses whether committed with knowledge or in ignorance, and make me worthy to receive without condemnation Your divine, glorious, spotless, and life-giving Mysteries, not for punishment, nor for an increase of sins, but for purification and sanctification, and as a pledge of the life and Kingdom to come, as a protection and help, for the destruction of enemies, and for the blotting out of my many transgressions.

For You are a God of mercy and compassion and love for men, and to You we send up the glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Seventh Prayer of Saint Symeon the New Theologian

From lips tainted and defiled, from a heart unclean and loathsome, from an unclean tongue, and out of a polluted soul: receive my prayer, O my Christ.

Do not reject me, nor my words, nor my ways, nor even my shamelessness, but give me courage to say what I desire, O my Christ; and even more, teach me what to do and what to say.

I have sinned more than the harlot who, on learning where You were lodging, bought myrrh and dared to come and anoint Your feet, my Christ, my Lord and my God.

As You did not repulse her when she drew near in her heart, neither, O word, reject me, but grant that I may clasp and kiss Your feet , and dare to anoint them with a flood of tears as with most-precious myrrh.

Wash me with my tears and purify me with them, O Word.

Forgive my sins and grant me pardon.

You know the multitude of my evil-doings, You also know my wounds, and You see my bruises.

But You also know my faith, and You behold my willingness, and You hear my sighs.

Nothing escapes You, my God, my Maker, my Redeemer, not even a tear-drop, nor part of a drop.

Your eyes know what I have not achieved, and in Your book things not yet done are written by You.

See my depression, and see how great is my trouble: take from me all my sins, O God of all, that with a clean heart, a trembling mind, and a contrite spirit I may partake of Your pure and all-holy Mysteries by which all who with sincerity of heart eat and drink You are quickened and deified.

For You, my Lord, have said: “Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me and I in Him;” wholly true is the word of my Lord and God.

For whoever partakes of Your divine and deifying Gifts certainly is not alone, but is with You, my Christ, the Light of the Triune Sun Which illumines the world.

That I may not remain alone without You, the Giver of Life, my Breath, my Life, my Joy, the Salvation of the world, I have therefore drawn near to You, as You see, with tears and with a contrite spirit.

Ransom of my offenses, I beseech You to receive me, that I may partake without condemnation of Your life-giving and perfect Mysteries, and that You may remain as You have said with me, thrice-wretched as I am, lest the tempter find me without Your grace and craftily seize me and, having deceived me, seduce me from Your deifying words.

Therefore I fall at Your feet and fervently cry to You: as You received the prodigal and the harlot who drew near to You, so also have compassion and receive me, the profligate and the prodigal, as I now draw near to You with a contrite spirit.

I know, O Savior, that no other has sinned against You as I have, nor has done the deeds that I have committed.

But I also know this: that neither the greatness of my offenses, nor the multitude of my sins, surpasses the great patience of my God, and His extreme love for men.

Despite our offenses, You purify and enlighten with the oil of compassion those who fervently repent, and You make them children of the light and sharers of Your divine nature.

And You act most generously, for what is strange to Angels and to the minds of men You often tell to the repentant as to Your true friends.

These things make me bold, my Christ, these things give me wings, and I take courage from the wealth of Your goodness to us.

With rejoicing, yet with trembling, I who am but straw partake of Fire and, strange wonder!, I am ineffably bedewed, like the bush of old which burnt without being consumed.

Wherefore with thankful mind, and with thankful heart, and with thankfulness in all the members of my soul and body, I worship and magnify and glorify You, my God, for You are blessed, now and ever, to all ages.

Eighth Prayer of Saint Symeon Metaphrastes

Lord, Who alone are pure and incorrupt, Who through the ineffable compassion of Your love for mankind assumed our whole nature through the pure and virgin blood of her who supernaturally conceived You by the coming of the Divine Spirit and by the will of the Eternal Father; O Christ Jesus, Wisdom and Peace and Power of God, Who in assuming our nature suffered Your life-giving and saving Passion – the Cross, the Nails, the Spear, and Death – mortify all the deadly passions of my body.

You Who in Your burial spoiled the dominions of hell, bury with good thoughts my evil schemes and scatter the spirits of wickedness.

You Who by Your life-giving Resurrection on the third day raised up our fallen first Parent, raise me up who am sunk in sin and suggest to me ways of repentance.

You Who by Your glorious Ascension deified our nature which You had assumed and honored it by Your sitting at the right hand of the Father, make me worthy by partaking of Your holy Mysteries of a place at Your right hand among those who are saved.

You Who by the descent of the Spirit, the Paraclete, made Your holy Disciples worthy vessels, make me also a recipient of His coming.

You Who are to come again to judge the World with justice, grant me also to meet You on the clouds, my Maker and Creator, with all Your Saints, that I may unendingly glorify and praise You with Your Eternal Father and Your all-holy and good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Ninth Prayer of Saint John Damascene

I stand before the doors of Your sanctuary, yet I do not put away my terrible thoughts.

But ,O Christ our God, Who justified the Publican, and Who had mercy on the Canaanite woman, and opened the gates of Paradise to the Thief, open to me the depths of Your love for mankind, and as I approach and touch You, receive me like the Harlot and the woman with an issue of blood.

For the one easily received healing by touching the hem of Your garment, and the other obtained release from her sins by clasping Your sacred feet.

And I, deplorable as I am, dare to receive Your whole Body; may I not be burnt, but receive me even as You did these.

And enlighten the senses of my soul, and burn up the indictments of my sins, by the intercessions of her who bore You without seed, and of the Heavenly Hosts, for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen.

Prayers of Holy Communion

I believe, Lord, and I confess, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first. Moreover, I believe that this is Your immaculate Body, and that this is Your precious Blood. Wherefore, I pray to You: have mercy on me, and forgive me my transgressions, those voluntary and involuntary, those in word, those in deed, those in knowledge and those in ignorance; and make me worthy to partake of Your immaculate Mysteries without condemnation, for the remission of sins and life everlasting. Amen.

Approaching for Holy Communion, read the following verses from Saint Symeon Metaphrastes:

Behold, I approach for divine Communion;
Creator, burn me not as I partake;
For You are Fire, which burns the unworthy.
But, rather, cleanse me from every impurity.

Of Your Mystical Supper, Son of God, receive me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of the Mystery to Your enemies; nor will I give You a kiss, as did Judas, but like the thief I confess You: Remember me, Lord, when You come into Your Kingdom!

Be awe-stricken, O man, beholding the deifying Blood;
For it is a lighted Coal that burns the unworthy.
The divine Body both deifies and nourishes me;
It deifies the spirit, and wondrously nourishes the mind.

You have smitten me with yearning, O Christ, and by Your divine zeal You have changed me; but burn away my sins with immaterial Fire, and make me worthy to be filled with delight in You; that, leaping for joy, O good One, I may magnify Your two comings.

Into the brilliant company of Your saints, how shall I the unworthy enter? For if I dare to enter into the bridal chamber, my garment betrays me, for it is not a wedding garment, and I shall be bound and cast out by the Angels; Lord, cleanse my soul of pollution, and save me, for You love mankind.

Master, Who loves mankind, Lord Jesus Christ my God, do not let these Holy Things be to me for judgment because of my unworthiness, but rather may they be for the purification and sanctification of soul and body, and as a pledge of the life and Kingdom to come. For it is good for me to cleave to God, to put my hope of salvation in the Lord.

And again:

Of Your Mystical Supper, Son of God, receive me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of the Mystery to Your enemies; nor will I give You a kiss, as did Judas, but like the thief I confess You: Remember me, Lord, when You come into Your Kingdom! Remember me, Master, when You come into Your Kingdom! Remember me, Holy One, when You come into Your Kingdom!

Prayers of Thanksgiving After Receiving Holy Communion

When you have had your due and rightful part in these life-giving and mystical Gifts immediately give praise and great thanks and with a fervent soul say to God:

Glory to You, O God. Glory to You, O God. Glory to You, O God.

Anonymous

I thank You, Lord my God, that You have not rejected me, a sinner, but have made me worthy to partake of Your holy Mysteries. I thank You that You have granted me, although I am unworthy, to partake of Your most-pure and heavenly Gifts. Master Who loves mankind, Who died and rose for our sake, and granted to us these awesome and life-giving Mysteries for the well-being and sanctification of our souls and bodies, let these Gifts be for the healing of both soul and body, for the averting of every evil, for the enlightenment of the eyes of my heart, for the peace of the powers of my soul, for faith unashamed, for love unfeigned, for the fullness of wisdom, for the observing of Your commandments, for an increase of Your divine grace, and for the attainment of Your kingdom. Preserved by them in Your holiness, may I always remember Your grace and no longer live for myself, but for You, our Master and Benefactor.  And thus, when I depart this life in the hope of eternal life, may I attain everlasting rest, where the sound of those that keep festival is unceasing, and the delight of those who behold the ineffable beauty of Your countenance is unending.  For You are the true joy and inexpressible gladness of those who love You, Christ our God, and all creation hymns You to the ages. Amen.

Of Saint Basil the Great

Master Christ God, King of the ages and Creator of all things, I thank You for all the good gifts You have given me, and especially for the communion of Your pure and life-giving Mysteries.  I therefore pray to You good Lord Who loves mankind: keep me under the protection and in the shadow of Your wings; grant that even to my last breath I may with a pure conscience partake worthily of Your Holy Gifts for the remission of sins and for eternal life.  For You are the Bread of life, the Source of holiness, the Giver of good things, and to You we send up glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. 

Of Saint Symeon Metaphrastes

You Who have willingly given me Your Flesh as food, Who are a burning fire to the unworthy, do not consume me. No, my Creator; rather penetrate into my members, all my joints, my organs, and my heart. Burn all my iniquities like thorns; cleanse my soul, make holy my thoughts, make firm my knees and my bones as well. Illumine my five senses and make vigilant my entire being with the fear of You.  Watch over me always; shield and protect me from every deed and word which corrupts the soul.  Cleanse me, purify me, and put me in order; adorn me, give me understanding, and illumine me.  Show me to be the dwelling of Your Spirit alone, and not the dwelling place of sin; so that when You enter into the home of Your communion, every evil doer and every passion will flee from me as from fire.  As intercessors I bring to You all the saints, the chiefs of the bodiless hosts, Your Forerunner, the wise Apostles, and moreover Your immaculate and pure Mother; accept their prayers,   My compassionate Christ, and make Your servant a child of light.  For in Your goodness You alone sanctify and enlighten our souls, and to You, our God and Master, as is right we send up glory every day.

Anonymous

Lord Jesus Christ our God, let Your sacred Body be to me for eternal life, and Your precious Blood for the remission of sins.  Let this Eucharist be to me for joy, health and gladness.  And at Your dread Second Coming make me, a sinner, worthy to stand at the right hand of Your glory; through the intercessions of Your all-pure Mother and of all the saints. Amen.

Anonymous Prayer to the Mother of God

All-holy Lady, Theotokos, light of my darkened soul, my hope, shelter, refuge, comfort, and joy: I thank You, for you have deemed me, the unworthy one, worthy to partake of the most-pure Body and precious Blood of your Son.  You who gave birth to the true Light, enlighten the spiritual eyes of my heart; you who conceived the Source of immortality, revive me who am dead in sin; you who are the lovingly-compassionate Mother of the merciful God, have mercy on me and grant me compunction and contrition in my heart, humility in my thoughts and the recall of my thoughts from captivity.  And grant me, until my last breath, to receive without condemnation the sanctification of the most-pure Mysteries for the healing of both soul and body.  Grant me tears of repentance and confession that I may hymn and glorify you all the days of my life.

For you are blessed and most-glorified to the ages. Amen.

Hymn of Symeon the Just

Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32)

The Trisagion Prayers

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

All-holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us of our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Your name’s sake.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

If the Divine Liturgy was that of Saint John Chrysostom the following Troparia:

Grace shone forth from your mouth like fire, illuminating the inhabited world. You treasured for the world the virtue of being unmercenary, and revealed your sublime humility. Thus by the words you taught us, father John Chrysostom, intercede with Christ God to save our souls.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

You received divine grace from heaven, and from your lips you taught all to worship the one God in Trinity, venerable John Chrysostom, the all-blessed. We extol you worthily, for you are an instructor who reveals divine things.

Now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

The Church is revealed to all as a brilliantly lit heaven, leading the faithful in the way of the light. Standing therein we cry aloud: make firm the foundation of this house, Lord.

However, if the Divine Liturgy was that of Saint Basil the Great the following Troparia instead:

Your teaching has spread over the whole world, for it has accepted your words that gave a divine explanation of doctrine. You have made clear the nature of things and set a rule of life for men. Holy father and kingly priest, intercede with Christ God that He may save our souls.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

You appeared as an unshakable foundation of the Church, dispensing an inviolate dominion to all mortals and sealing it with your doctrines. O revealer of heavenly things, venerable Basil.

Now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

The Church is revealed to all as a brilliantly lit heaven, leading the faithful in the way of the light. Standing therein we cry aloud: make firm the foundation of this house, Lord.

Following the Presanctified Divine Liturgy of Saint Gregory the Great the following Troparia:

As one endowed with discretion of speech, you proved to be a most excellent dispenser of the word of God, hierarch Gregory. By your life you set before us the virtues, and you shine forth with the brilliance of holiness. Righteous father, entreat Christ God that we may be granted mercy.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

We praise you the Dialogist as is fitting, for you are a divinely-inspired harp of the Church, and a God-possessed tongue of Wisdom; you emulated the zeal of the Apostles, and you manifestly followed in their footsteps. We thus say to you: rejoice, father Gregory.

Now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

The Church is revealed to all as a brilliantly lit heaven, leading the faithful in the way of the light. Standing therein we cry aloud: make firm the foundation of this house, Lord.

Concluding the prayers:

Lord, have mercy. (12)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

More honorable than the Cherubim, and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim, the one who incorruptibly gave birth to God the Word, truly the Theotokos, we magnify you.

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God have mercy on us and save us.

Amen.

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message February 21, 2021

Open to me the gates of repentance, O Giver of Life, for early in the morning my spirit hastens to Your holy temple, bringing the temple of my body all defiled. But as one compassionate, cleanse me, I pray, by Your loving-kindness and mercy.

Idiomela Hymn of the Triodion Orthros

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Starting tomorrow, we are entering into the heights of our liturgical life, spiritual experiences and discipline of prayer. The Triodion Period, given its name from the Book of Hymns which guide us through pre-Lent, Lent, Holy Week, Pascha and post-Paschal worship, is a month-long preparation for Great and Holy Lent. 

Lent is an opportunity for reflection, repentance, strength, focus, maturity, and mostly, love for Christ. The values gained and lessons learned are received not through a collection of obligatory actions, but rather a deep commitment to the soul and a strong desire to be in the presence of our Lord. 

Please take the time to intimately familiarize yourselves with the Gospel Lessons for the next four Sundays. They will set the pace, standard and direction of your Lenten Journey. 

Unlike last year, we hopefully and prayerfully expect to begin and end our steps to Pascha with a full complement of services with live worship throughout. I greatly look forward to preparations and planning for the Divine Services Great Lent, Holy Week and Pascha. 

Sunday, May 2nd, the Day of Pascha will be here soon enough. Until then, let’s start with our spiritual “baby steps:” the Triodion Sundays.

February 21: Publican and the Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14)

This Sunday emphasizes humility as a key attitude for repentance. The Greek word for repentance is metanoia, which means a change of mind. To repent we must not boast of our spiritual feats, but humble ourselves like the Publican who longs for a change of mind. We are called to learn this secret of the inward poverty of the Publican rather than the self-righteousness of the Pharisee who is convinced of his perfectness and not open to change because of his pride. There is no prescribed fasting for this week.

February 28: Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)

This Sunday teaches us about our need to return from exile. This parable shows us the mercy of the Father who with open arms receives his son, whose behavior he does not return, but is joyous of his return home. We are encouraged to examine ourselves in the period of Lent to purge ourselves of sin and “come home.”

The week that follows is called Meat Week (Kreatini) as it is the last week we are to eat meat. The normal rule of fasting are applied to this week, fast on Wednesday and Friday. 

Saturday of this week is the first Saturday of Souls where those who have fallen asleep in the hope of resurrection and eternal life are remembered at a special service “Saturday of the Souls.” Parishioners bring small dishes of Kollyva to the church and submit a list of first names of deceased ones to the priest. We commend to God all those who have departed before us, who are now awaiting the Last Judgment. This is an expression of the Churches love. We remember them because we love them.

March 7: Judgment (Meat-fare) Sunday (Matt 25:31-46)

This Sunday emphasizes the Last Judgment. We are reminded of our individual responsibility for love. We are encouraged not to eat meat this week, but we can eat eggs, cheese and other dairy products.

March 14: Forgiveness (Cheese-Fare) Sunday (Matt 6:14-21)

This Sunday emphasizes forgiveness and how we must forgive others if God is to forgive us so we can break the chains of sinful tendency which we inherit from the Adam and Eve. This is the last day of preparation as the traditional Lenten fast begins on the following day where no meat, dairy or eggs are to be eaten according to the Church tradition.

March 15: Great Lent Begins

Great Lent is the period that the Church has in her wisdom set aside for us to intensify our own spiritual growth through fasting, prayer and worship. If you follow the Church guidelines on fasting, make time to attend the services and intensify your own prayer life, you will be rewarded with a greater closeness to God.

Once again, I am ever-grateful that we will be together this year for worship. In time, God willing, everything else will follow.

With Much Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message February 14, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Happy Valentine’s Day! Although we don’t hear about St. Valentine in the Church, he is a saint that is regarded in our tradition. I’d like to share some information about this holy Martyr.

The ancient martyrology of the Church of Rome marks February 14th as the remembrance of “the martyr Valentine, presbyter of Rome” (Valentinus means “vigorous” in Latin).

The Martyrdom of the Saint in Rome

Saint Valentine lived in Rome in the third century and was a priest who helped the martyrs during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II the Goth. The great virtue and catechetical activities of the saint had become familiar. For this he was arrested and brought before the imperial court.

“Why, Valentine, do you want to be a friend of our enemies and reject our friendship?” asked the emperor.

Then the saint replied “My lord, if you knew the gift of God, you would be happy together with your empire and would reject the worship of idols and worship the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.”

One of these judges stopped the saint and asked him what he thought about Jupiter and Mercury, and St. Valentine boldly replied, “They are miserable, and spent their lives through corruption and crime!”

The judge furiously shouted, “He blasphemes against the gods and against the empire!”

The emperor, however, continued his questions with curiosity, and found a welcome opportunity to finally learn what was the faith of Christians. Valentine then found the courage to urge him to repent for the blood of the Christians that was shed. “Believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized and you will be saved, and from this time forward the glory of your empire will be ensured as well as the triumph of your armory.”

Claudius became convinced, and said to those who were present: “What a beautiful teaching this man preaches.”

But the mayor of Rome, dissatisfied, began to shout: “See how this Christian mislead our Prince.”

Then Claudius brought the saint to another judge. He was called Asterios, and he had a little girl who was blind for two years. Listening about Jesus Christ, that He is the Light of the World, he asked Valentine if he could give that light to his child. St. Valentine put his hand on her eyes and prayed: “Lord Jesus Christ, true Light, illuminate this blind child.” Oh the great miracle! The child saw! So the judge with all his family confessed Christ. Having fasted for three days, he destroyed the idols that were in the house and finally received holy baptism.

When the emperor heard about all these events, he initially thought not to punish them, but thought that in the eyes of citizens he will look weak, which forced him to betray his sense of justice. So St. Valentine along with other Christians, after they were tortured, were beheaded on 14 February in the year 268 (or 269).

The Relics of the Saint in Athens

After the martyrdom some Christians salvaged the body of the saint and put a bit of his blood in a vial. The body of the martyr was moved and buried in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla, a burial place of most of the martyrs. Over the years, somehow he was “forgotten” since almost every day there were buried in these catacombs new martyrs for several decades. The memory of Valentine’s martyrdom however remained robust, particularly in the local Church of Rome. Officially the memory of St. Valentine was established in 496 by Pope St. Gelasius.

Fifteen centuries pass and we arrive at 1815, at which time the divine intention was to “disturb” the eternal repose of the saint. Then the relics were donated by the Pope to a gentle Italian priest (according to the custom of the time). After this the relics are “lost” again until 1907 where we find them in Mytilene in the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady. It seems that after the death of the priest that a descendant of his had inherited the relics who had migrated in Mytilene, which was then a thriving community of West-European Catholic Christians. There they remained until 1990 when they were moved to Athens in the Church of Saints Francis and Clara’s Italian community, where they are today.

Saint Valentine the Greek

We should first say that there is not sufficient information on the national origin of the saint, though there are some other (shades of) evidence that the saint was of Greek origin. Few example, the earliest depiction of the saint bearing the inscription «O ΑΓΙΟC BAΛΕΝΤΙΝΟC” in Greek, is in the Church of Our Lady the Ancient (Santa Maria Antiqua) of the 6th century which was the parish of Greeks in Rome. The church particularly venerated saints who were Greeks and generally from the East. The decoration and renovation of the church was ordered by the Greek Pope John VII (705-707) and finished by his successors, including the last Greek Pope Zacharias (741-752). But perhaps it is no coincidence that after seventeen centuries, the remains arrived in Greece. The issue here still requires research.

Saint Valentine: Patron of Lovers

Apart from the historical data we have for Valentine’s life, there is accompanied various legends, such as from those who say he is the patron saint of lovers.

The saint had a reputation as a peacemaker, and one day while cultivating some roses from his garden, he heard a couple quarrel very vigorously. This shocked the saint, who then cut a rose and approached the couple asking them to hear him. Even though they were dispirited, they obeyed the saint and afterwards were offered a rose that blessed them. Immediately the love returned between them, and later they returned and asked the saint to bless their marriage. Another tradition says that one of the charges against Valentine was that he did not adhere to the command of the emperor which stated that men who had not fulfilled their military obligations were not allowed to marry; meanwhile the saint had blessed the marriage of young Christian soldiers with their beloveds.

Besides all this, the likely choice of him as the “saint of lovers” is to be associated with the pagan festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival, celebrated by the Romans on February 15. Others connect the celebration of this feast with the mating season of birds during this period. Certainly, however, the saint has nothing to do with the commercialism (marketing) of flowers, gifts and secular centers which trivialize Eros, this great gift of God.

Saint Valentine and Orthodoxy

Many, however, raise the objection that St. Valentine is not mentioned anywhere in the calendar of the Orthodox Church. Indeed on 14 February in the calendar of the Church there are commemorated Saints Auxentios, Maron and the martyrs Nicholas and Damian. The explanation is simple: in ancient times hagiographic directories, biographies and martyrologia were written to be primarily used locally in their own character, and the fame and reputation of a saint locally does not mean that it extended also throughout the Church. So there may be saints honored widely in one region and completely unknown in another, e.g., St. Demetrios, who is famous throughout the Eastern Church, yet in the West is not honored at all, and is almost unknown, but this does not mean that he is not a saint. Another example of the modern Church: St. Chrysostomos of Smyrna († 1922) who in Greece is known, yet in Russia is completely unknown, but this does not mean that he is not a saint. (compiled from various sources)

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message February 7, 2021

O wise Haralambos, you were proven an unshakable pillar of the Church of Christ; an ever-shining lamp of the universe. You shone in the world by your martyrdom. You delivered us from the moonless night of idolatry O blessed one.
Wherefore, boldly intercede to Christ that we may be saved.

Hymn of St. Haralambos

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This coming Wednesday, February 10th is the Feast of the Hieromartyr Haralambos. Please be aware that during the Tuesday morning Seniors Liturgy, we will chant the hymns and proclaim the readings of St. Haralambos in anticipation. I wish everyone who celebrates this great Feast a joyous day filled with grace, love and warmth.

The Hieromartyr Haralambos, Bishop of Magnesia, the martyrs Porphyrius and Baptus and three women martyrs suffered in the year 202.

Saint Haralambos, Bishop of Magnesia (Asia Minor), successfully spread faith in Christ the Savior, guiding people on the way to salvation. News of his preaching reached Lucian, the governor of the district, and the military commander Lucius. The saint was arrested and brought to trial, where he confessed his faith in Christ and refused to offer sacrifice to idols.

Despite the bishop’s advanced age (he was 113 years old), he was subjected to monstrous tortures. They lacerated his body with iron hooks, and scraped all the skin from his body. During this the saint turned to his tormentors, “I thank you, brethren, that you have restored my spirit, which longs to pass over to a new and everlasting life!”

Seeing the Elder’s endurance and his complete lack of malice, two soldiers (Porphyrius and Baptus) openly confessed Christ, for which they were immediately beheaded with a sword. Three women who were watching the sufferings of Saint Haralambos also began to glorify Christ, and were quickly martyred.

The enraged Lucius seized the instruments of torture and began to torture the holy martyr, but suddenly his forearms were cut off as if by a sword. The governor then spat in the face of the saint, and immediately his head was turned around so that he faced backwards.

Then Lucius entreated the saint to show mercy on him, and both torturers were healed through the prayers of Saint Haralambos. During this a multitude of witnesses came to believe in Christ. Among them also was Lucius, who fell at the feet of the holy bishop, asking to be baptized.

Lucian reported these events to the emperor Septimus Severus (193-211), who was then at Pisidian Antioch (western Asia Minor). The emperor ordered Saint Haralambos to be brought to him in Antioch. Soldiers twisted the saint’s beard into a rope, wound it around his neck, and used it to drag him along. They also drove an iron nail into his body. The emperor then ordered them to torture the bishop more intensely, and they began to burn him with fire, a little at a time. But God protected the saint, and he remained unharmed.

Many miracles were worked through his prayer: he raised a dead youth, and healed a man tormented by devils for thirty-five years, so that many people began to believe in Christ the Savior. Even Galina, the daughter of the emperor, began to believe in Christ, and twice smashed the idols in a pagan temple. On the orders of the emperor they beat the saint about the mouth with stones. They also wanted to set his beard on fire, but the flames burned the torturer.

Full of wickedness, Septimus Severus and an official named Crispus hurled blasphemy at the Lord, mockingly summoning Him to come down to the earth, and boasting of their own power and might. The Lord sent an earthquake, and great fear fell upon all, the impious ones were both suspended in mid-air held by invisible bonds, and only by the prayer of the saint were they put down. The dazed emperor was shaken in his former impiety, but again quickly fell into error and gave orders to torture the saint.

And finally, the emperor sentenced Saint Haralambos to beheading with a sword. During Saint Haralambos’ final prayer, the heavens opened and the saint saw the Savior and a multitude of angels. The holy martyr asked Him to grant that the place where his relics would repose would never suffer famine or disease. He also begged that there would be peace, prosperity, and an abundance of fruit, grain, and wine in that place, and that the souls of these people would be saved. The Lord promised to fulfill his request and ascended to heaven, and the soul of the Hieromartyr Haralambos followed after Him. By the mercy of God, the saint died before he could be executed. Galina buried the martyr’s body with great honor.

(From the Orthodox Church in America)

Fr. Anthony Savas