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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message June 9, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Risen!

Truly He is Risen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Anthony Savas

Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message June 2, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Love in our Risen Lord,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message May 26, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Risen!

Truly He is Risen!

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

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

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

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

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

Quite a summer, right?!?

With Love in our Risen Lord,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message April 14, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Please be aware that tomorrow morning, Sunday, April 14, we will take up a special collection for the benefit of the students and seminarians of our holy Metropolis of Denver, who are studying at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA. Looking back at my years in theological school, it was a time of fervent faith, absolute dedication, joyful anticipation, diligent work, and a deep longing to serve Christ, and His Bride, the Church.

But like any other student in a graduate school setting, the financial challenges are daunting and plentiful. I am grateful that our Bishop Constantine is mindful of the challenges which our budding servant-leaders face, and extends to them a lifeline, through all our generosity, to ease the burdens. There will be a special collection basket placed in the exit of the narthex as we depart from the Divine Liturgy. Please be mindful of the sacrificial lives these students have chosen and honor the calling which they have received.

Anything offered in prayerful participation will be greatly appreciated.

With Love in Christ, 

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message April 7, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Tomorrow marks the mid-way point of Great Lent. This the Third Sunday of Lent is themed and dedicated to the precious and life-giving Cross.

The commemoration and ceremonies of the Third Sunday of Lent are closely parallel to the feast of the Veneration of the Cross (September 14). Not only does the Sunday of the Holy Cross prepare us for commemoration of the Crucifixion, but it also reminds us that the whole of Lent is a period when we are crucified with Christ.

As we have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24), and will have mortified ourselves during these forty days of the Fast, the precious and life-giving Cross is now placed before us to refresh our souls and encourage us who may be filled with a sense of bitterness, resentment, and depression. The Cross reminds us of the Passion of our Lord, and by presenting to us His example, it encourages us to follow Him in struggle and sacrifice, being refreshed, assured, and comforted. In other words, we must experience what the Lord experienced during His Passion – being humiliated in a shameful manner. The Cross teaches us that through pain and suffering we shall see the fulfillment of our hopes: the heavenly inheritance and eternal glory.

As they who walk on a long and hard way and are bowed down by fatigue find great relief and strengthening under the cool shade of a leafy tree, so do we find comfort, refreshment, and rejuvenation under the Life-giving Cross, which our Fathers “planted” on this Sunday. Thus, we are fortified and enabled to continue our Lenten journey with a light step, rested and encouraged.

Or, as before the arrival of the king, his royal standards, trophies, and emblems of victory come in procession and then the king himself appears in a triumphant parade, jubilant and rejoicing in his victory and filling those under him with joy, so does the Feast of the Cross precede the coming of our King, Jesus Christ. It warns us that He is about to proclaim His victory over death and appear to us in the glory of the Resurrection. His Life-Giving Cross is His royal scepter, and by venerating it we are filled with joy, rendering Him glory. Therefore, we become ready to welcome our King, who shall manifestly triumph over the powers of darkness.

The present feast has been placed in the middle of Great Lent for another reason. The Fast can be likened to the spring of Marah whose waters the children of Israel encountered in the wilderness. This water was undrinkable due to its bitterness but became sweet when the Holy Prophet Moses dipped the wood into its depth. Likewise, the wood of the Cross sweetens the days of the Fast, which are bitter and often grievous because of our tears. Yet Christ comforts us during our course through the desert of the Fast, guiding and leading us by His hand to the spiritual Jerusalem on high by the power of His Resurrection.

Moreover, as the Holy Cross is called the Tree of Life, it is placed in the middle of the Fast, as the ancient tree of life was placed in the middle of the garden of Eden. By this, our Holy Fathers wished to remind us of Adam’s gluttony as well as the fact that through this Tree has condemnation been abolished. Therefore, if we bind ourselves to the Holy Cross, we shall never encounter death but shall inherit life eternal.

As we celebrate this commemoration, it is a great blessing that we will do so during Godparent Sunday at St. Anna’s. Having our spiritual children surrounding us, receiving Communion together, and sharing the day with our extended families is a reminder of God’s loving kindness towards us. As the Holy Spirit places these sacred relationships before us, we partake of His love through those whom inspire us to keep, protect, and live our Orthodox Christian Faith. God bless the godchildren, godparents, sponsors and spiritual families of our St. Anna parish!

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message March 31, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thank you to all who faithfully and enthusiastically participated in our Parish Lenten Retreat. Last evening’s Salutations Service and Dr. Jeannie’s presentation were inspiring and incredibly thought provoking. She reminded us of the rich spiritual heritage that we have received, and our great responsibility to share, preserve and celebrate it. The Orthodox Church is the unapologetic ancient, unaltered, and Apostolic Church of Christ. Live it! 

Among the usual stack of attached flyers which come with the Weekly Bulletin, I am including an encyclical from His Eminence Metropolitan Nathaniel of Chicago. His Eminence has been named the Locum Tenens of the Metropolis of Denver until such time that a new Metropolitan is elected and enthroned. What does “locum tenens” mean? For those of you who’s Latin is a bit rusty, the term literally means “to hold the place of.” The Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, headed by Archbishop Elpidophoros gave the temporary responsibility of our Metropolis’ daily administration to Metropolitan Nathaniel. Therefore, he will now be commemorated in all divine services for the time being. 

We are told that the same Synod is preparing their list of three names of worthy candidates for the office of the Metropolitan of Denver, to be sent to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. There the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will vote for our future hierarch from those names given to them. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will guide, bless, and inspire the process.

I pray that your Lenten journey continues to be fruitful and yield much spiritual joy. No doubt, participation in the Lenten Services, individual prayer and readings, meditation upon Holy Scripture, kind and generous giving, and an overall sense of love and appreciation for Christ will propel you to the joy of the Resurrection in the coming weeks. 

Please know that I will be gone for the entirety of next week, until Friday evening’s Salutations Service. I will be traveling to Denver with my family.

Enjoy a peaceful and lovely evening.

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message March 17, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This evening, we will begin our long-anticipated journey into Great Lent. We will carve out time in the course of our daily lives and dedicate ourselves to a greater appreciation for Christ’s ministry unto us. We will walk with our Lord in preparation for His passion, suffering, crucifixion, removal from the cross, His burial, and finally, His resurrection. Are you ready to walk this path? Are you prepared to enter into a more substantial and rigorous life of prayer? Are you eagerly anticipating the redemptive acts of our Savior? Are you ready to begin the Fast?

Partnered with our individual acts of prayer, fasting and giving of alms, the Church invites us to participate in the multitude of services that take place only this time of year. Following is a brief synopsis of what you can expect. Please take every opportunity to be with us, enjoying the blessings of our new worship space, and to come together as a community in prayer. 

SUNDAY EVENING GREAT VESPERS OF FORGIVENESS

This service takes place only once. It is the literal transition from pre-Lenten preparations to the actual throws of the season. We are steeped in the necessities of seeking and offering forgiveness for any offense against us, or for any transgression against our brothers and sisters. The service is a solemn and beautiful gateway to the days and weeks ahead. Great Vespers concludes with the opportunity to ask the forgiveness of all in attendance. 

Key Hymn: As the vestments in the church change from celebratory gold to penitential purple;

“Turn not Your face from your child, for I am afflicted; hear me speedily. Give heed to my soul and redeem it.” 

GREAT COMPLINE

Great Compline is a somber service or repentance. It encourages us to turn away from worldly things toward God our Savior. Specifically, it is a service of prayer before sleep, so it includes prayers asking for God’s protection as we approach the end of the day and the coming of darkness upon us. This service is offered weekly on Monday evenings during the five weeks of Great Lent. It puts us in a frame of mind that we require His loving protection from the temptations that tear us away from His loving embrace.

Key Hymn: “Lord of the Powers, be with us. For in times of distress, we have no other help but You. Lord of the Powers, be with us.” 

THE DIVINE LITURGY OF PRESANCTIFIED GIFTS

Also simply known as the Presanctified Liturgy, this unique and lovely service is celebrated weekly on Wednesday evenings. It is also accompanied by a potluck dinner and lecture from various speakers from both within and from outside our parish. Unlike the Divine Liturgy which is a celebration, this service is somber, reflective, penitential and weighty. An additional Lamb (consecrated Body of Christ for Communion) is prepared during Sunday Liturgies before each Presanctified Liturgy (thus the name, “presanctified”). Offering the Eucharist in this unique way reminds us that the weekdays of Lent are steeped in humility and the process of repentance. The service is partly Vespers with additional elements of the Liturgy. Though the Presanctified Liturgy is defined by a dignified stillness, it is still one of the most dynamic services of the Church.

Key Hymn: Psalm 140 “Let my prayer arise as incense and let the lifting of my hands be an evening sacrifice.”

SALUTATIONS TO THE THEOTOKOS AND THE AKATHIS HYMN

These services, chanted on the first four Friday evenings of Great Lent, are actually portions of the full prayer (The Akathist Hymn) that is chanted in its entirety on the fifth Friday of the Fast. It is a joyful poem, or cannon of hymns dedicated to the Theotokos and her unrepeated ministry in the world, and her proximity to Jesus Christ. We are continually reminded that her intercessions are important, comforting and peaceful. Portions of the Great Compline are also included in this service, reminding us that we are still in the season of Lent.

Key Hymn:

“O Champion Leader, I your City now inscribe to you triumphant anthems as the tokens of my gratitude, being rescued from the terrors, O Theotokos. Inasmuch as you have powers unassailable, from all kinds of dangers free me, so that unto you, I may cry aloud, Hail, O unwedded Bride.”

My dearly and much beloved in the Lord, please take the time to be active and prayerful participants in these divine prayer services. You will be richly and spiritually inspired to continue the course of the Fast and emerge victoriously at the end. 

With Much Love Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message March 10, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Tomorrow’s Gospel reading is Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the Last Judgment. It reminds us that while trusting in Christ’s love and mercy, we must not forget His righteous judgment when He comes again in glory. If our hearts remain hardened and unrepentant, we should not expect the Lord to overlook our transgressions simply because He is a good and loving God. Although He does not desire the death of a sinner, He also expects us to turn from our wickedness and live (Ezek. 33:11).

The time for repentance and forgiveness is now, in the present life. At the Second Coming, Christ will appear as the righteous Judge, “Who will render to every man according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). Then the time for entreating God’s mercy and forgiveness will have passed.

As Father Alexander Schmemann reminds us in his book Great Lent (Ch. 1:4), sin is the absence of love, it is separation and isolation. When Christ comes to judge the world, His criterion for judgment will be love. Christian love entails seeing Christ in other people, our family, our friends, and everyone else we may encounter in our lives. We shall be judged on whether we have loved, or not loved, our neighbor. We show Christian love when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit those who are sick or in prison. If we did such things for the least of Christ’s brethren, then we also did them for Christ (Mt.25:40). If we did not do such things for the least of the brethren, neither did we do them for Christ (Mt.25:45).

As tomorrow is the third week of the Triodion (pre-Lenten) Period, it is the last day for eating meat and meat products until Pascha, though eggs and dairy products are permitted every day during the coming week. This practice of limited fasting prepares us gradually for the more intense fasting of Great Lent. For all of you who are new to the Church, please take the time to discuss your Lenten goals, fears, and expectations with me. Send an email, send a text, or give me a call.

Great Lent is a time of spiritual strengthening, healing and revitalization. It is not meant to be a time of frustration, rejection and obligatory practices. Everyone of us comes to this time of year equipped with differing experiences and time spent in this kind of sacred preparations. The important thing is that we dedicate this time to our relationship with God. 

Great Lent will begin next Sunday evening with the celebration of Great Vespers of Forgiveness. The church will turn the page from pre-Lenten lessons and practices and head straight into the beauty of the Great Fast. May it be fruitful and edifying.

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message March 3, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Next Saturday Morning, March 9th, and for the following two Saturdays, we will gather in the church for what have been collectively known as the “Saturday of the Souls” Liturgies. Technically, only the first of the three are specifically dedicated to the memories of our departed in Christ. The other two, are in memory of the Holy Ascetics and the Miracle of the Kollyva by St. Theodore of Tyron. There will be general Memorial Services chanted at all three, and the Faithful are encouraged to make and bring Kollyva (boiled memorial wheat) in honor of their departed loved ones. 

These services are celebrated on the two Saturdays before the beginning of Great Lent, and on the first Saturday once Great Lent has commenced. For the many, many people who are new to Orthodoxy and to St. Anna’s, as well as everyone who needs a prayerful reminder on the importance of Great and Holy Lent, Holy Week, The Crucifixion of Christ and His glorious Resurrection, you need only look to the divine services, appointed readings, ascetical practices and teaching opportunities during these coming, sacred days. 

I have attached this year’s Lenten Schedule of Services as well as the flyer for our parish Lenten Retreat. The Fast begins on March 18th, and though that may seem far away, it is literally just around the corner. The schedule of speakers and host ministries of our Wednesday Evening Lenten Potluck Dinners and Lectures is nearly complete and I will send that information out shortly. Each of this year’s speakers brings a unique experience, fresh perspective and engaging delivery. You will not want to miss a single one of them.

Seems like each year we have a scheduling discrepancy between the Lenten Schedule and the times printed in the Bulletin Calendar. We will make every effort to make sure there is no confusion or mistake in our communication, but always refer to the Lenten Schedule on the Flyer. You can’t go wrong there. 

This will be the first Lenten Journey in our new worship space. I look forward to every hymn, prayer, reading, and message that will be shared up through our celebration of Pascha. Let us not take a single moment for granted or allow ourselves to be lulled into a spiritual laziness by not attending services. We get our what we put in. And we have every good reason to receive every blessing afforded to us. Get ready. We are set for an amazing journey.

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message February 4, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I trust and pray you are well. Hopefully you’ll find the Bulletin waiting for you as you get up and get ready for Church. Please forgive the tardiness of this message. Today was a very busy day getting ready for our big day next week, when we begin worshipping in the new sanctuary.

But before we turn our sights ahead, let’s take a moment to celebrate our past. Friday, February 2nd, the Feast of our Lord’s Presentation in the Temple was our Fourth Anniversary of moving into our building. Those of you who were here, remember a spectacular day filled with excitement and anticipation. The morning began with Orthros at our former location on the campus of St. Thomas More Catholic Church, then we, the faithful and clergy traveled in procession to our newly acquired space, where His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver awaited our arrival, then began the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. It was also the day that His Eminence elevated my priesthood to that of Protopresbyter. So many blessings on that day. I feel as if it were just yesterday. God bless all of you who participated in that significant milestone in our parish history. 

Now, looking ahead more immediately, we will have two Liturgies this week, following tomorrow’s services, which will be the final Sunday in our present, temporary worship space. On Thursday, February 8th, we will celebrate the Feast of St. Theodore the Commander. Orthros is at 9:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy at 10:00 am. Thank you to Theo Huff and his Mommy and Daddy for donating a lovely icon of Ss. Theodore the Tyre and Theodore the Commander to the parish. The icon will be on display for veneration on this day.

Then, the final service to be celebrated in our current worship space will be Saturday, February 10th for the Commemoration of the Priest Martyr Haralambos. Service times are the same. 

THEN, AS SCHEDULED AND ANNOUNCED, THE FIRST DIVINE LITURGY IN OUR PERMANENT SANCTUARY WILL BE HELD NEXT SUNDAY, ON FEBRUARY 11th.

So you can further enjoy the services this coming week, here is some information about Ss. Theodore and Haralambos:

The Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates came from the city of Euchaita in Asia Minor. He was endowed with many talents, and was handsome in appearance. For his charity God enlightened him with the knowledge of Christian truth. The bravery of the saintly soldier was revealed after he, with the help of God, killed a giant serpent living on a precipice in the outskirts of Euchaita. The serpent had devoured many people and animals, terrorizing the countryside. Saint Theodore armed himself with a sword and vanquished it, glorifying the name of Christ among the people.

For his bravery Saint Theodore was appointed military commander in Greek, “stratelatos”  in the city of Heraclea, where he combined his military service with preaching the Gospel among the pagans subject to him. His gift of persuasion, reinforced by his personal example of Christian life, turned many from their false gods. Soon, nearly all of Heraclea had accepted Christianity.

During this time the emperor Licinius (311-324) began a fierce persecution against Christians. In an effort to stamp out the new faith, he persecuted the enlightened adherents of Christianity, who were perceived as a threat to paganism. Among these was Saint Theodore. Licinius tried to force Saint Theodore to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. The saint invited Licinius to come to him with his idols so both of them could offer sacrifice before the people.

Blinded by his hatred for Christianity, Licinius trusted the words of the saint, but he was disappointed. Saint Theodore smashed the gold and silver statues into pieces, which he then distributed to the poor. Thus he demonstrated the vain faith in soulless idols, and also displayed Christian charity.

Saint Theodore was arrested and subjected to fierce and refined torture. He was dragged on the ground, beaten with iron rods, had his body pierced with sharp spikes, was burned with fire, and his eyes were plucked out. Finally, he was crucified. Varus, the servant of Saint Theodore, barely had the strength to write down the incredible torments of his master.

God, however, in His great mercy, willed that the death of Saint Theodore should be as fruitful for those near him as his life was. An angel healed the saint’s wounded body and took him down from the cross. In the morning, the imperial soldiers found him alive and unharmed. Seeing with their own eyes the infinite might of the Christian God, they were baptized not far from the place of the unsuccessful execution.

Thus, Saint Theodore became “like a day of splendor” for those pagans dwelling in the darkness of idolatry, and he enlightened their souls “with the bright rays of his suffering.” Unwilling to escape martyrdom for Christ, Saint Theodore voluntarily surrendered himself to Licinius, and discouraged the Christians from rising up against the torturer, saying, “Beloved, halt! My Lord Jesus Christ, hanging upon the Cross, restrained the angels and did not permit them to take revenge on the race of man.”

Going to execution, the holy martyr opened up the prison doors with just a word and freed the prisoners from their bonds. People who touched his robe were healed instantly from sicknesses, and freed from demonic possession. By order of the emperor, Saint Theodore was beheaded by the sword. Before his death he told Varus, “ Do not fail to record the day of my death, and bury my body in Euchaita.” He also asked to be remembered each year on this date. Then he bent his neck beneath the sword, and received the crown of martyrdom which he had sought. This occurred on February 8, 319, on a Saturday, at the third hour of the day.

St. Haralambos, a priest of Magnesia in Asia Minor, suffered in the year 202.

Saint Haralambos 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 priest’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 Haralampus. 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 priest 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 priest martyr. 

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.

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter