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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message November 13, 2022

Presbytera Andrea and Dimitri at the Washington Monument

I have perceived much beauty
In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight;
Heard music in the silentness of duty;
Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.
Nevertheless, except you share
With them in hell the sorrowful dark of hell,
Whose world is but the trembling of a flare,
And heaven but as the highway for a shell,
You shall not hear their mirth:
You shall not come to think them well content
By any jest of mine. These men are worth
Your tears: You are not worth their merriment.

Wilfred Owen, The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings from the Nation’s Capital! 

Any chance to walk the Mall, visit the National Monuments, and tour the shrines of our Federal Government is indeed a blessing and honor that any American Citizen should seize, given the opportunity. Though we are in Maryland for our son’s sporting event, we made sure not to miss introducing him to the stately beauty and enduring dignity that is Washington DC. Indeed, any day in our Nation’s Capital is a blessed day. And to be there on Veteran’s Day transforms the day from national pride to heartfelt thanksgiving. 

As we walked the area of the National Mall, we listened to the speakers, and partook of the events at the WWII, Korean, and Vietnam War Memorials. Vets, from all branches and eras walked in groups and stood as individuals, gracefully receiving our “Thanks for your service,” as we negotiated our way through the walkways. We felt a great sense of gratitude, seeing these proud Veterans, knowing that the marble buildings, bronze statues and sculpted artwork, all assembled to symbolize American pride and history, though permanent and stately, are only reflections of the actual people who have stood to defend our Nation. 

Every one of those Veterans has seen violence, experienced fear, heard sounds, smelled smells, and seen horrors that should never have scarred their minds or inflicted their bodies. They were placed in harm’s way, upholding the ideals and principles of our forefathers, so that the freedom and dignity of man could be protected and upheld.

While politicians come and go, governing philosophies rise and fall, red turns to blue, and blue turns to red, our collective Republic stands as one Nation Under God. To be sure, as debates are held and votes are taken in the chambers of Congress, every American should walk the streets of Washington DC and experience all that unites us, rather than dwell on that which divide s us. Abraham Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address reminded his listeners that both sides of the Civil War read the same Bible and prayed to the same God. His call to a collective consciousness is still important today.

It is also the reminder, that God is not forgotten in this great Land. It is here, between these two, blessed shores, where His Name is lifted, cherished, witnessed and glorified. Our St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church community is largely made up, as the children of immigrants. Our parents and grandparents strove to get here, so we could live and thrive here. We should never have to be reminded that their sacrifices and dreams should not be taken for granted. But sometimes we need a slight prodding. A walk through the sights of Washington DC can serve as such a reminder. That walk on Veteran’s Day is that much more vivid and powerful. 

Thank you to my grandparents who immigrated to this country. Specifically, thank you to my Papou Nick Zakis who gained his US Citizenship by serving in the Army. Thank you to my father-in-law, Steve Zoumadakis who served in the Korean War. Thank you to the Veterans of our St. Anna parish, both those living and who have passed. And to all men and women of the US Armed Forces. Bless the memories of those who never made it home and strengthen their families. God bless our incredible country, and every diverse person who calls it home. 

With Much Love in XC, 

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message November 6, 2022

Saint Nectarios of Aegina

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last Spring, our parish, and actually the entire Orthodox world in the United States were treated to an exceptional film, “Man of God,” the story of St. Nectarios of Aegina. His life and ministry as the “Modern Saint” is a guide and inspiration to us all. Let us recall our own, parish history, St. Nectarios was on our short list of names for our church. Since we will celebrate the Divine Liturgy this Wednesday in honor of his Feast Day, I thought it best to reintroduce you to his life today.

Saint Nectarios of Aegina (1 October 1846–8 November 1920), Greek: Άγιος Νεκτάριος Αιγίνης, Metropolitan of Pentapolis and Wonderworker of Aegina, was officially recognized as a Saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1961. His Feast Day is celebrated every year on 9 November.

Anastasios Kephalas, later Nectarios, was born on 1 October 1846 in Selymbria (today Silivri, Istanbul) in the Ottoman Empire to a poor family. His parents, Dimos and Maria Kephalas, were pious Christians but not wealthy.

At the age of 14, he moved to Constantinople (Istanbul) to work and further his education. In 1866, at age 20, he moved to the island of Chios to take a teaching post. On November 7, 1876, he became a monk, at age 30, in the Monastery of Nea Moni, for he had long wished to embrace the ascetic life.

Three years after becoming a monk he was ordained a Deacon, taking the name Nectarios. He graduated from the University of Athens in 1885. During his years as a student of the University of Athens he wrote many books, pamphlets, and Bible commentaries.

Following his graduation he went to Alexandria, Egypt, where he was ordained a priest and served the Church of Saint Nicholas in Cairo. He was consecrated Metropolitan bishop of Pentapolis (an ancient diocese in Cyrenaica, in what is now Libya) by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Sophronios in 1889.

He served as a Bishop in Cairo for one year. Nectarios was very popular with the people, which gave rise to jealousy among his colleagues. They were able to persuade his superior that Nectarios had ambitions to displace the Patriarch. Nectarios was suspended from his post without explanation. He then returned to Greece in 1891, and spent several years as a preacher (1891–1894). He was then director of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School for the education of priests in Athens for fifteen years. He developed many courses of study, and wrote numerous books, while preaching widely throughout Athens.

In 1904, at the request of several nuns, he established Holy Trinity Monastery for them on the island of Aegina.

Nectarios ordained two women as deaconesses in 1911. Up to the 1950s, a few Greek Orthodox nuns also became monastic deaconesses. In 1986, Christodoulos, the metropolitan of Demetrias and later archbishop of Athens and all of Greece, ordained a woman deacon in accordance with the “ritual of St. Nektarios” (the ancient Byzantine text St. Nektarios had used).

In December 1908, at the age of 62, St. Nectarios resigned from his post as school director and withdrew to the Holy Trinity Convent on Aegina, where he lived out the rest of his life as a monk. He wrote, published, preached, and heard confessions. He also tended the gardens, carried stones, and helped with the construction of the monastery buildings that were built with his own funds.

St. Nectarios died on November 8, 1920, at the age of 74, following hospitalization for prostate cancer and two months of treatment. His body was taken to the Holy Trinity Convent, where he was buried by his best friend St Savvas of Kalymnos, who later painted the first icon of St. Nectarios. The funeral of St. Nectarios was attended by multitudes of people from all parts of Greece and Egypt. His anathema was not lifted by the Alexandrian Patriarchate until 1998.

The relics of St. Nectarios were removed from the grave on 2 September 1953. Official recognition of Nectarios as a Saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople took place on 20 April 1961. 

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message October 30, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I pray that you enjoy a blessed weekend as we head strongly into November. Though I indicated that we would be able to see the newly installed mosaic as soon as this week, it seems that I have over promised and under delivered. The combination of the cold and precipitation has made it not possible to uncover. Insulated tarps will remain around the scaffolding until Tuesday afternoon, when the concrete frame around the icon will be installed. Next Sunday, we should be able to witness the glory of our church’s transformation. We will reschedule the Blessing of the Mosaic, once it is uncovered. 

I am told that next Sunday, we should have access to the front door, once again, as construction will be complete on the bell tower. Finishing touches, such as windows, grills, lighting and the cross are still in the works. But soon enough, it will a functioning structure. We will then head straight into Phase II of construction, turning our sights on the interior.

Thankfully, as we have continued to communicate, worship will still remain uninterrupted. With November approaching, this is important because there are many Liturgies scheduled during this month.  November literally begins with a Divine Liturgy and ends with a Divine Liturgy. That said, this coming Tuesday, November 1st, we will commemorate the Holy Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian of Asia Minor (Constantinople).

The Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian and their mother Saint Theodota were natives of Asia Minor (some sources say Mesopotamia). Their pagan father died while they were still quite small children. Their mother raised them in Christian piety. Through her own example, and by reading holy books to them, Saint Theodota preserved her children in purity of life according to the command of the Lord, and Cosmas and Damian grew up into righteous and virtuous men.

Trained and skilled as physicians, they received from the Holy Spirit the gift of healing people’s illnesses of body and soul by the power of prayer. They even treated animals. With fervent love for both God and neighbor, they never took payment for their services. They strictly observed the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Freely have you received, freely give.” (Mt. 10:8). The fame of Saints Cosmas and Damian spread throughout all the surrounding region, and people called them unmercenary physicians.

Once, the saints were summoned to a grievously ill woman named Palladia, whom all the doctors had refused to treat because of her seemingly hopeless condition. Through faith and through the fervent prayer of the holy brothers, the Lord healed the deadly disease and Palladia got up from her bed perfectly healthy and giving praise to God. In gratitude for being healed and wishing to give them a small gift, Palladia went quietly to Damian. She presented him with three eggs and said, “Take this small gift in the Name of the Holy Life-Creating Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Hearing the Name of the Holy Trinity, the unmercenary one did not dare to refuse.

When Saint Cosmas learned what had happened, became very sad, for he thought that his brother had broken their strict vow. On his deathbed he gave instructions that his brother should not be buried beside him. Saint Damian also died shortly afterward, and everyone wondered where Saint Damian’s grave should be. But through the will of God a miracle occurred. A camel, which the saints had treated for its wildness, spoke with a human voice saying that they should have no doubts about whether to place Damian beside Cosmas, because Damian did not accept the eggs from the woman as payment, but out of respect for the Name of God. The venerable relics of the holy brothers were buried together at Thereman (Mesopotamia).

Many miracles were worked after the death of the holy Unmercenaries. There lived at Thereman, near the church of Cosmas and Damian, a certain man by the name of Malchus. One day he went on a journey, leaving his wife all alone for what would be a long time. He prayerfully entrusted her to the heavenly protection of the holy brothers. But the Enemy of the race of mankind took on the appearance of one of Malchus’ friends, and planned to kill the woman. A certain time went by, and this man went to her at home and said that Malchus had sent him to bring her to him. The woman believed him and went along. He led her to a solitary place intending to kill her. The woman, seeing that disaster threatened her, called upon God with deep faith.

Two horrific men then appeared, and the devil let go of the woman and fled, falling off a cliff. The two men led the woman home. At her own home, bowing to them deeply she asked, “My rescuers, to whom I shall be grateful to the end of my days, what are your names?”

They replied, “We are the servants of Christ, Cosmas and Damian,” and became invisible. The woman with trembling and with joy told everyone about what had happened to her. Glorifying God, she went up to the icon of the holy brothers and tearfully offered prayers of thanksgiving for her deliverance. And from that time the holy brothers were venerated as protectors of the holiness and inviolability of Christian marriage, and as givers of harmony to conjugal life. 

The Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian of Asia Minor should not be confused with the Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian of Rome (July 1), or the Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian of Arabia (October 17). (Source: OCA)

Remember: Our JOY Pumpkin Patch Outing is this Sunday after Church!

GOYA is this Friday at the Soter Home!

YAL is November 18th at Rocky Mountain Axe Throwing!

With Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message October 23, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I apologize for this late message. It has been an extremely busy week with our mosaic installer in town. What an incredible time in the history of our parish!

Before I share anything else, let me invite you to the Divine Liturgy this Wednesday Morning for the Feast of St. Demetrios. It will be your first real opportunity to see the new mosaic. We will bless it next Sunday following Church Services. 

Please note the above pictures. They are our new Sunday School rooms, located on the property of our new next-door neighbors and the future home of a Lunatic Fringe Hair Salon. The owners, Lauren Spatafore and her father, David Spatafore have graciously allowed us to hold Sunday School in their building until our classrooms (three of the intended five) are complete this spring. They are gracious and generous neighbors. 

Our preschool class will remain on our property; tomorrow, having class in the back of the church in their partitioned space, and eventually in the new storage building, once it has heat and electricity in the coming weeks. Elementary and Teenage Classes will go next door for the next few months. Our Men’s Ministry Team built a stairway and installed a handrail up to the new location. Teachers will guide the kids up for their classes following Communion. 

Once their salon is open, the employees of Lunatic Fringe will be parking in our parking lot during their business hours. We are honored as a community to be both the recipient of, and the provider of neighborly blessings. It is the way it should be. 

Enjoy a lovely remainder of your short evening. See you in a few hours. Stay warm. Come to Church!

Much Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message October 9, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Some very exciting news: our mosaics have been delivered. The artwork arrived on Thursday and remains crated and waiting for the installers to arrive in about ten days. We have been engaging these Italian artists for months.

The design, budgeting, creative and production process has been filled with great anticipation and prayerful jubilation. You could imagine my sense of excitement knowing that our shipment had cleared customs and was on its way. The truck pulled in, the delivery driver jumped out and then, one of the most significant interactions of my life took place. And it had nothing – NOTHING to do with glass mosaic tiles. 

The delivery driver came into the building, and I immediately went to the door, extended my hand to greet him and introduced myself. The man shook my hand, then just stood there, staring at me. He didn’t say anything for what seemed to take forever. He just kept looking at me, almost beginning to cry. He then asked in very broken English “Do you speak Spanish?”

I told him no. He then took out his phone and started speaking into it with clear and deliberate speed in his own language. He then showed me his phone, which had translated what he said into English. “Here,” he said. I took his phone and read the message. Then, just like him as we first met, I began to get emotional and started to cry.

His phone read: “Thank you. For the first time since I’ve moved to this country, you are the very first person to shake my hand.”

Through the process of his phone translating, I asked him how long he’s been here.

He said just over three years. 

By this point, I wasn’t even thinking about mosaics or artwork or construction or Italians or anything else. I was equally stunned with emotion.

This man, standing before me, was taken back with the most basic gesture of acknowledgement and connection. Upon his arrival, I did not see a delivery man, or a foreign guy walk through the doors of our church, but a person. I didn’t even think about the interaction in such terms. But he sure did.

Let’s think about the last three years. With the Pandemic, we all got out of the habit of shaking hands. The awkward combination of fist and elbow bumps replaced the firm handshake. Ricardo, our new friend came to the USA around this time. Perhaps the timing of his arrival made it so, that nobody, ever, extended a hand of greeting. For the sake of giving humanity the benefit of the doubt, I’ll naïvely accept that. But you and I know probably know that’s not true.

Let us always take the opportunity to respect and acknowledge everyone who comes into our lives. When we afford grocery clerks and cable installers with the same dignity, we offer our physicians and professors, we can see humanity through the eyes of Christ. We are all His children. We are all created in His image. We are accountable to Him by how we treat each other. 

Can you imagine going three years without an acknowledgement of your existence? Would you want to walk through the halls of your office, school or warehouse as an invisible ghost? Always, always see the Other. Because the Other, is another occupant of this globe and represents Christ, Himself (Mt 25:31-46).

So, the mosaic icon is here. It depicts St. Anna walking in her garden with her daughter, the Theotokos. There is no image of Christ in this icon. But look with a prayerful, humble, discerning, and delicate eye. Then you’ll see Him. 

He delivered it to us.

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message September 18, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am thrilled to officially share some wonderful news with our St. Anna Family, though we have touched on these subjects during divine services. The Metropolis of Denver, and our own parish are blessed to receive much needed and appreciated assistance in ministry and leadership on two, distinctively different fronts.

His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver has in no small measure, guided and grown our holy Metropolis for decades. His final “addition” to his holy “territory” was the establishment of the Greek Orthodox Mission Parish of Utah, which of course, became a chartered parish of the Archdiocese as the St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church of Sandy, Utah. His Eminence has proven to be a prayerful, holy and sacrificial, servant-shepherd. We are ever grateful for his episcopal support and guidance in the formation of our vibrant parish, and for all he has accomplished in his prolific ministry.

It is equally true that due to the Covid pandemic, his age and over-all health, His Eminence has not been able to travel the vast spaces of the Metropolis of Denver and has been in need of assistance, just like any priest in a large parish. The priests of the Metropolis of Denver are thrilled and excited to welcome our new Auxiliary Bishop, Bishop Elect Constantine of Sassima, as the assistant bishop to His Eminence. Following is his biography that was sent out from the Archdiocese.

His Grace is worthy, capable, gifted and kind. I have known (formally Fr. Dean Moralis) for over 30 years and there is not a single person on this Earth that is more suited for this specific ministry – here and now. This is not good news for our Metropolis. This is fantastic news! Make no mistake, Metropolitan Isaiah is still very much our local hierarch and remains in charge of the day-to-day life of the Metropolis. His Grace will be of great assistance to him and to us. To the newly elected bishop of our church and our metropolis – we jubilantly shout “Axios!” “He is Worthy!”

The Metropolis has requested that each parish share in the substantial, financial obligations of His Grace’s ordination and relocation from Baltimore to Denver. Parish Council President, Steve Simos and I have determined that a $2,000 pledge from our parish is acceptable, given the size of our parish and all of the responsibilities we have here at home, with our on-going build out. We will offer a special collection in the Narthex (we do not pass baskets) for this blessed cause. Please be as generous as able. This appointment will benefit our entire Metropolis and we eagerly look forward to the first hierarchal visit of His Grace. 

His Grace Bishop Elect Constantine of Sassima (Moralis)

In continuation to the July 22, 2022, communication from the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Holy and Sacred Synod announcing the unanimous election of His Grace Bishop-elect Constantine of Sassima (Moralis) as an auxiliary Bishop for the Holy Metropolis of Denver, it is with much joy that our Sacred Archdiocese announces that His Grace’s ordination to the Holy Episcopacy will take place at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City this fall, on October 15. 

His Grace Bishop-elect Constantine of Sassima (Moralis) was born in 1966 in Baltimore, Maryland. He is the son of the late Petros (a refugee from Asia Minor born in Athens) and Sarah (of Mobile, Alabama), and is the youngest of three children.

From an early age, His Grace served as an acolyte at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore, MD under the late Fr. Constantine M. Monios of blessed memory, a mentor who encouraged him to pursue ordained ministry. In 1988, he began his studies at Hellenic College and graduated from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 1994. He was ordained to both the holy Diaconate and Presbyterate in 1996 by the late Metropolitan Silas of New Jersey of blessed memory and was assigned to the Annunciation Cathedral in Baltimore — the same parish where he was baptized and raised — and has served as its pastor to the present day. He was elevated to the rank of Confessor in the year 2000 and to the rank of Archimandrite in 2002, at which time he was also installed as Dean of the Annunciation Cathedral. On July 22, 2022, he was elected by the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Holy and Sacred Synod as the Bishop of Sassima.

With over 1,000 families at the Cathedral, His Grace has worked tirelessly to serve the needs of the parish and the greater Baltimore community. He has established a number of programs for youth and young adults and is the founder of the Annunciation Senior Center. His Grace’s pride and joy, the Annunciation Senior Center affords senior members of the community a safe haven for Christian fellowship while receiving the highest level of care but has temporarily closed due to Covid. He served as the director of the Chesapeake region’s Camp Good Shepherd and has led four overseas pilgrimages. His Grace currently serves on the Board of Trustees for both Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and St. Basil Academy.

Now, on the opposite end of the Orthodox clerical spectrum, I am equally thrilled and grateful that St. Anna’s has been abundantly blessed with the attachment of Deacon John Kavas to our parish. Dn. John and his family are from Denver, CO and have recently relocated to Park City, Utah for reasons he spells out in his biography. Dn. John is a beautiful liturgist and an outstanding person. We welcome him, Diaconissa Julie, together with their youngest child, Joey to Utah. We also look forward to meeting their eldest three children Jonas, Jack and Jana when they come to visit from Colorado and Kansas. Dn. John generously volunteers his time to participate in the divine services of the church and in the future, will assist in the teaching ministries of St. Anna’s. It is important for us to realize that Dn. John was not assigned to serve at St. Anna’s by the Metropolis, but rather, he chose to serve here. We should always express our gratitude to him and his family for joining our spiritual home.

Beyond his profession as an attorney, he is a graduate of our Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA. And I should also say that Dn. John is a classmate of our own, dear Fr. Jimmy Foreso, who served the very first Divine Liturgy of our budding mission. He returned often to serve our community in its first year. Fr. Jimmy will always hold a special place in the heart of our parish. May his memory be eternal! Fr. Jimmy and Dn. John were very close friends, and I find it a divine nod, that the association of his ministry continues here through Dn. John. So let’s also meet…

Deacon John Kavas

Deacon John Kavas, his wife Diakonissa Julie and their youngest son Joey join St. Anna’s after relocating from Colorado.  John and Julie have four children, ages 21-15, and live in Park City.  Deacon John graduated from Colorado State University and the University of Denver College of Law. 

He started his law practice in 2000 and joined Merlin International, a cybersecurity company in 2004 as its General Counsel.  The family moved to Boston in 2008 where he continued to work in that capacity while he pursued a Masters of Divinity from Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. 

After their four years in Boston, the family moved back to Denver where John was ordained as a Deacon.  He began his volunteer ministry at St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Greenwood Village, Colorado, and continued to help grow his company in a new role as its Vice President of Corporate Development. 

He left the company in 2019 and now works on various investment projects while serving as Vice Chair of the Intermountain Division Freestyle Committee of US Ski & Snowboard, and as a judge in mogul skiing. The family is so happy to be part of the St. Anna’s community!

New bells, new bishop, new deacon. These incredible blessings will open the door to the next phase of our construction as the exterior of the church, and the new storage building are nearly complete. Please look forward to the soon-to-be-shared announcements concerning Phase II of our construction – narthex, offices, bathrooms, and three of the five classrooms. 

Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message September 4, 2022

The Children and Teachers Present at our 2022-2023 Sunday School Year Blessing.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I want to thank the teachers, the children and their families who participated in last week’s Blessing upon our new Sunday School Year. We honored our teachers for their past years of service and called upon all children in attendance, to participate in the Sanctification of our efforts to learn and teach the Gospel, the Traditions of our Faith, and the history of our Church. Days into the same week, we celebrated the New Ecclesiastical Year on September 1st. And then days into next week, we will again turn our spiritual attention to the celebration of youth – as we celebrate the Nativity of the Theotokos on the 8th of September, then the Synaxis (Gathering) of her parents, Ss. Joachim and Anna, the following day, on September 9th.

The record of the birth of Mary is not found in the Bible. The traditional account of the event is taken from the apocryphal writings which are not part of the New Testament scriptures. The traditional teaching which is celebrated in the hymns and verses of the festal liturgy is that Joachim and Anna were a pious Jewish couple who were among the small and faithful remnant—“the poor and the needy”—who were awaiting the promised messiah.

The couple was old and childless. They prayed earnestly to the Lord for a child, since among the Jews barrenness was a sign of God’s disfavor. In answer to their prayers, and as the reward of their unwavering fidelity to God, the elderly couple was blessed with the child who was destined, because of her own personal goodness and holiness, to become the Mother of the Messiah-Christ.

Your nativity, O Virgin, has proclaimed joy to the whole universe. The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, has shone from you, O Theotokos. By annulling the curse, he bestowed a blessing. By destroying death he has granted us eternal life.

Troparion

By your nativity, O most pure virgin, Joachim and Anna are freed from barrenness; Adam and Eve from the corruption of death. And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you: The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the Nourisher of our Life.

Kontakion

The fact that there is no Biblical verification of the facts of Mary’s birth is incidental to the meaning of the feast. Even if the actual background of the event as celebrated in the Church is questionable from an historical point of view, the divine meaning of it “for us men and for our salvation” is obvious. There had to be one born of human flesh and blood who would be spiritually capable of being the Mother of Christ, and she herself had to be born into the world of persons who were spiritually capable of being her parents.

The feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, therefore, is a glorification of Mary’s birth, of Mary herself and of her righteous parents. It is a celebration as well of the very first preparation of the salvation of the world. For the “Vessel of Light,” the “Book of the Word of Life,” the “Door to the Orient,” the “Throne of Wisdom” is being prepared on earth by God Himself in the birth of the holy girl-child Mary.

The verses of the feast are filled with titles for Mary such as those in the quotations above. They are inspired by the message of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. The specific Biblical readings of the feast give indications of this.

At Vespers the three Old Testament readings are “Mariological” in their New Testament interpretation. Thus, Jacob’s Ladder which unites heaven and earth and the place which is named “the house of God” and the “gate of heaven” (Gen 28.10–17) are taken, to indicate the union of God with men which is realized most fully and perfectly—both spiritually and physically—in Mary the Theotokos, Bearer of God. So also, the vision of the temple with the “door ‘to the East’” perpetually closed and filled with the “glory of the Lord” symbolizes Mary, called in the hymns of the feast “the living temple of God filled with the divine Glory” (Ezek 43.27–44.4). Mary is also identified with the “house” which the Divine Wisdom has built for himself according to the reading from Proverbs 9.1–11.

The Gospel reading of Matins is the one read at all feasts of the Theotokos, the famous Magnificat from Saint Luke in which Mary says: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1.47).

The epistle reading of the Divine Liturgy is the famous passage about the coming of the Son of God in “the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man” (Phil 2.5–11) and the gospel reading is that which is always read for feasts of the Theotokos—the woman in the crowd glorifies the Mother of Jesus, and the Lord himself responds that the same blessedness which his mother receives is for all “who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk 11.27–28).

Thus, on the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, as on all liturgical celebrations of Christ’s Mother, we proclaim and celebrate that through God’s graciousness to mankind every Christian receives what the Theotokos receives, the “great mercy” which is given to human persons because of Christ’s birth from the Virgin.

On September 9, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Ancestors of God Saints Joachim and Anna, which refers to the gathering of the faithful after the Feast of the Nativity of Theotokos, honoring the commemoration of the parents of Panagia, the Most Holy Theotokos.

The righteous Joachim and Anna were childless for fifty years of their married life. In their old age, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to each one of them separately, telling them that God had heard their prayers and that they would give birth to a daughter, Mary. Then St. Anna conceived by her husband and after nine months bore a daughter blessed by God and by all generations of men: the Most-holy Virgin Mary, the Theotokos.

St. Joachim was of the lineage of Judah and a descendant of King David. Anna was the daughter of Matthan the priest, from the lineage of Levi, as was Aaron the high priest. Matthan had three daughters: Mary, Sophia and Anna. Mary married, lived in Bethlehem, and gave birth to Salome; Sophia married, also lived in Bethlehem, and gave birth to Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Forerunner; Anna married Joachim in Nazareth, and in old age gave birth to Mary, the Most-Holy Theotokos.

Joachim and Anna had lived together in marriage for fifty years and yet had remained barren. They lived devoutly and quietly, and of all their income they spent one third on themselves, distributed one third to the poor and gave the other third to the Temple, and they were well provided for. Once when in their old age they came to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice to God, the high priest Issachar reprimanded Joachim, saying: “You are not worthy that a gift be accepted from your hands, for you are childless.”

Others, who had children, pushed Joachim behind them as “unworthy.” This greatly grieved these two aged souls, and they returned home in great sorrow. Then the two of them fell down before God in prayer, that He works a miracle with them as He once had with Abraham and Sarah and give them a child as a comfort in their old age. Then God sent His angel, who announced to them the birth of “a daughter most-blessed, by whom all nations on earth will be blessed and through whom the salvation of the world will come.” Anna straightway conceived, and in nine months gave birth to the Holy Virgin Mary.

Saint Joachim died a few years later at the age of 80 after his daughter went to live in the Temple. Saint Anna died at the age of 70, two years after her husband. Saints Joachim and Anna are often invoked by couples trying to have children.

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 28, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This past Wednesday, the Orthodox world lost the Western World’s greatest Luminary of an entire generation, with the passing of Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia. I have had the distinct joy of attending at least three of his lectures during my adult life. And his books The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way were profoundly influential to my spiritual growth as a teen. He was the voice of the Eastern Christian expression to our hemisphere.  His voice was soft, yet powerful. His writings were academic, yet relatable. He taught, blessed, authored, translated and inspired. 

For many, countless individuals who were either introduced to Orthodoxy, or who were re-introduced to Orthodoxy in the last decades of the past century, up until today, chances are…you were introduced by “Timothy Ware.” He guided us through the structure, theology, doctrine and teachings of the Church he adopted as a young man. The dignity he so exuded, was a gift from God.

He was oh, so, British! Classy, refined, distinguished! He blended together worlds that should have been miles apart, both culturally and religiously. But there was Metropolitan Kallistos – a bridge between heaven and earth, and between dichotomous dots on the globe. 

We read his books in my high school Sunday School Classes. I have referenced, reflected upon, and re-visited them innumerably since. His translation/publication of the Festal Menaion was for me, as a young priest, a critical resource in celebrating the divine rites of the church – for his was the only English translation of many church services. Today, we take these resources for granted – tapping a button on our phones, and instantly retrieving any desired liturgical text in an instant. However in 1997, you better had purchased the weighty, light-blue covered, hard back book that referenced what to chant at Christmas, Epiphany, Great Lent, Holy Week and Pascha. What would we have done, how could we have served, to whom could we have turned, were it not for the efforts of His Excellency, Metropolitan Kallistos.

Since my exposure to this fine, Man of God, was only superficial, I would like to share the following article, written by one of his former students, Fr. John Chryssavgis – who is himself, a world-wide respected scholar. He paints a personal and vivid picture of this erstwhile theologian and spiritual father. Please pray for his blessed soul. Give thanks to God for his influential voice – from the lecture halls of Oxford University to the classrooms of every church, everywhere. Bless the Memory of Kallistos Ware! Enjoy:

This article originally appeared in Religion News Service on August 24, 2022.

Remembering Kallistos Ware, Revered Orthodox Christian Theologian

The renowned and popular Orthodox Christian theologian of recent decades died Wednesday (Aug. 24) at 87.

(RNS) — Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, without a doubt the most renowned and popular Orthodox Christian theologian of recent decades, died on Wednesday (Aug. 24) at 87. A convert to Orthodox faith, he became bishop of the see of Diokleia and was considered the most prolific and proficient communicator of patristic theology and Orthodox spirituality in our generation. 

For more than 30 years until retiring in 2001, he taught at Oxford University in England (where I studied with him for three years) and was known as an assiduous scholar, punctilious lecturer and conscientious adviser. He also served as parish priest at the Oxford Orthodox community that housed the Greek and Russian congregations. Indeed, what drew many, including me, to Oxford was his rare combination of the scholarly and spiritual, academia and asceticism, of patristic literature and profound liturgy — of Orthodox Christianity as a living and life-changing tradition. 

Born Timothy Ware in 1934, he came to Oxford to study classics and theology. He was received into the Orthodox faith in 1958, and after some years spent in monasteries in Canada and at the Monastery of St. John the Theologian on the island of Patmos, where the Book of Revelation was written, he was ordained a priest in 1966. He was elected to the rank of bishop in 1982, and later metropolitan, a title of higher distinction in the Eastern Orthodox Church. For the rest of his life he was an avid researcher, prolific writer, brilliant exponent and desired speaker.

He was a punctilious and measured man. The day we first met, in September 1980, we had lunch at his academic home, Oxford’s Pembroke College. Ware brought along a stack of books for me, proposed an essay title and said he’d see me again in three weeks. Otherwise we talked about the menu of the dining hall. The next time we met at his parental home. Ware served me tea and a banana on a plate, with cutlery. He neatly peeled and sliced his banana; I obliged him by drinking the tea, but told him I preferred to take the fruit back to my room. For a young student accustomed to more casual ways in my native Australia and in Greece, it was a brusque awakening.

The world will remember Ware as the author of “The Orthodox Church,” still the quintessential introduction to the Orthodox Church, and its companion, “The Orthodox Way.” But for me he will always be first and foremost the translator, with Mother Mary of the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Veil in France, of “The Festal Menaion” and “The Lenten Triodion,” the core liturgical books of the Orthodox Church, completed in 1969 and 1977 respectively.

With Gerald Palmer and Philip Sherrard, he edited the complete text of “The Philokalia,” a collection of writings by early church and Orthodox mystics. In 1995, Denise Sherrard wrote to tell me that her husband completed the draft of the translation only weeks prior to his repose. Ware, for his part, finished with the final proofs of the fifth and final volume just weeks before he died, attending to its index until his last breath.

Ware’s unique and provocative combination of scholarship and spirituality was a powerful influence. Comfortable serving as a priest at Holy Trinity Church as he was researching in the Bodleian Library and chairing the faculty of theology, he spent countless hours visiting patients in hospitals and parishioners in restaurants or businesses. He was as much on fire delivering a lecture on the desert fathers or the Palamite controversy as he was delivering a sermon on a solemn Holy Week service or a regular Sunday liturgy — all with a distinctive and ingenious wit.

In his first sermon as bishop, in June of 1982, he suggested that the diverse lives of the saints reveal that each of us is a unique way of, and to, salvation. In his weekly sermons, he emphasized the power of the name of Jesus, the call to self-awareness, the expectation of trials and the primacy of thanksgiving. He underlined prayer as offering glory, instead of listing complaints, and interpreted liturgy as the occasion for the Lord to act rather than an opportunity for us to worship. 

He kept track of these sermons: He once admitted that he was repeating a sermon from five years earlier, shrewdly observing that it was all right to repeat a sermon, so long as it wasn’t a bad one the first time around.

But it is as a father confessor and spiritual guide that he may have made his most lasting mark. Arguably the most vivid image I have of Ware is the endless line of parishioners approaching the upper left corner of the nave at Holy Trinity at Great Vespers on Saturday Vigil. They came from many backgrounds, education levels and cultures, all there to offer a word of confession and receive a word of consolation.

Ware would exhort you to pay attention to little things: the icon you venerated, the person you encountered, the gift of the present. He was convinced of Christianity’s constant surprise and limitless wonder; it could never be contained or constricted to a stagnant past and stereotypical tradition. It found you where you are: To Ware, it made perfect sense that reorganizing one’s index cards and filing system could be used as a prudent and beneficial Lenten discipline for the soul.

Ware will be remembered far beyond Oxford, or even Orthodoxy. He was as confident debating with Anglican and Catholic clerics or theologians as he was among Greek, Russian, Serbian or Romanian Orthodox thinkers. He was longtime editor (with George Every and John Saward) of the pioneering journal Eastern Churches Review and lifelong advocate (with the likes of the Rev. Lev Gillet) for the Anglican-Orthodox Ecumenical Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius. He served as joint president of the international commissions for Orthodox-Anglican and Orthodox-Roman Catholic dialogue, and despite concerns and reservations he promoted and participated in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in 2016.

Thoroughly ecumenical, he was an English gentleman through and through. Orthodox to the bone, he nevertheless considered himself a perennial apprentice of the faith, once stating how he looked forward to browsing through heaven’s library.

He never imagined himself contorting the Orthodox faith to personal conventions or apprehensions, but ever perceived himself as willing to be shaped, perhaps surprised by its newness. It is not coincidental that his personal memoir, “Journey to the Orthodox Church,” appeared only a decade ago, when, as a mature critical thinker, he could discern how the church had changed over his lifetime. He emphasized the struggle to espouse the heart of the Orthodox faith as well as to embrace its paradoxes, antitheses and polarities.

In this way, he was capable of both informing and criticizing developments in the Orthodox Church, Greek and Russian alike. He was also humble enough to recognize his limitations and miscalculations. He admitted that the 2007 Document of Ravenna “on communion, conciliarity and authority,” which concerned some theologians because it highlighted the authenticity of a universal primacy, was in fact sound. He encouraged discussion of women’s ordination along with dispassionate conversation on gender and sexuality — both of course to the rancorous disapproval of the usual suspects. He endorsed an Orthodox ecological doctrine as fundamentally and essentially rooted in the dogma of creation and incarnation.

I never stopped being his student. He was supportive at every new dimension and turn of my ministry and teaching. He guided and read everything that I wrote over the last 30 years, which included preparing — when he was already quite ill — the foreword to my latest publication on the fifth-century elders from Gaza, Barsanuphius and John, whose letters he introduced me to as his student.

I was delighted to dedicate this book to him; and I was elated that he held it in his hands only days before surrendering his spirit to the Lord. I can imagine him right now waiting for the grandfather clock to strike with precision for the moment when he will open the door to his book-strewn heavenly library.

John Chryssavgis, the author of more than 40 books on Orthodox theology and spirituality, is archdeacon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and special theological adviser to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.

May His Memory be Eternal,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter
St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 21, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I trust and pray that all is well, and you are feeling the abundant love of Christ in your lives. As I seem to share every year around this time, we are entering into my favorite season. Schools are beginning (way too early), today is a crispy, rainy day, the leaves will soon change, and a full calendar of services, events, classes and ministries will again, come fully alive. I think we had something like 28 days of 100-degree temperatures the past several weeks. Yes, I am ready for autumn. 

So much of what we do, and how we schedule the activities of the parish really does orbit the school calendar. If you have kids in school or not, our educational system has a strong influence on our daily living. What’s available in stores, sports and entertainment choices, the fact that vacations are over, and we need to settle into patterns and programs, are all part of the reality of the season. Fun’s over. Get back to work!

But the beauty of this turning point in the calendar, is grounded, at least for me, in the knowledge that fundamental needs and our higher priorities are once again brought to the forefront. “Back to School” is not simply a slogan for stores, malls and shopping sites. Nor is it limited to football games, homecoming dances, and renewed friendships. Getting back into the classroom; the secular classroom or the St. Anna Sunday School classroom, means that concepts, ideas and information will once again flow freely. Minds will be enriched; imaginations will be inspired and, in church any way, the knowledge of Christ, His Church, His holy traditions, His Saints, His sacramental life, His ministry, His gift of everlasting life can be absorbed, actualized and put into practice.

Knowledge and education are fundamental needs.  We are busily crafting and finalizing the calendar of spiritual education programming at St. Anna’s, for all age groups. New and continuing opportunities are ever expanding, and I am looking forward to sharing the start dates and times by this time next week. I know that modern school districts are telling us that mid-August is the start of the process, but my brain is still programmed for September. 

Registration emails have been sent to the continuing and new families of our Sunday School program. If you have not been contacted personally, please use the QR Code on the attached flyer and sign up your child(ren), grandchild(ren) or godchild(ren). I truly ask the forgiveness of anyone I may have not contacted. We will bless the New School Year next Sunday, take a quick Labor Day Weekend break and begin actual classes on September 11, 2022.

We are finalizing times for our Evening Bible Study, Daytime Bible Study, Orthodox Inquirer’s Class, Spiritual Book Study, Parish Nights, and Chanting Classes. Wow. That’s a lot! Please afford yourself the opportunity to grow in your Faith in any and all classes taught at St. Anna’s. 

Finally, I would like to bring your attention to another fundamental aspect of life – literally – blood. For the past several years, Beverly Bartel has led the efforts at St. Anna’s to host blood drives, at least on an annual basis. Our next drive, open to the public, will take place this coming Wednesday. At the time of scheduling, we weren’t quite sure where it would be staged. But I suppose an advantage to slow-moving construction is a conveniently placed blood drive – to be held in the social hall. If able, please be responsive, there are ten spots open for the day. These are the most spots we’ve had open this late. 

Following is Bev’s final message for this week’s initiative: 

LAST CALL FOR BLOOD DONORS

FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW TO SIGN UP

10 SPOTS LEFT

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 24

12:30-6:30

ST. ANNA GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH

 CLICK HERE to schedule an appointment.

We hope you will sign up! 

I pray that this evening’s Tables Extraordinaire will be fun and successful. And I very much look forward to seeing you all in church tomorrow.  You might want to come and see the progress on the bell tower (spoiler alert – buried at the bottom of an email – the bells arrive on September 9th!) We look forward to blessing them in the church the following Sunday. Watch for details. Ooooh. It’s getting very real and very exciting. Praise be to God!

With Much Love in XC, 

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 14, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most Holy Theotokos, Intercede for Us!

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter