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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message November 22, 2020

The Entrance of the Theotokos – Tomorrow – November 21

The second great feast of the Theotokos is the celebration of her entrance as a child into the Jerusalem Temple which is commemorated on the twenty-first of November. Like the feast of her nativity, this feast of Mary is without direct biblical and historical reference. But like the nativity, it is a feast filled with important spiritual significance for the Christian believer.

The texts of the service tells how Mary was brought as a small child to the temple by her parents in order to be raised there among the virgins consecrated to the service of the Lord until the time of their betrothal in marriage. According to Church tradition, Mary was solemnly received by the temple community which was headed by the priest Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. She was led to the holy place to be “nourished” there by the angels in order to become herself the “holy of holies” of God, the living sanctuary and temple of the Divine child who was to be born in her.

There is no doubt that the verses of the Old Testament Psalm 45, used extensively in the services of the feast, provided a great inspiration for the celebration of Mary’s consecration to the service of God in the Jerusalem Temple.

Hear, O Daughter, and consider and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your Lord, bow to him . . .

The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes, in many-colored robes she is led to her king, with her virgin companions, her escort, in her train.

With joy and gladness they are led along, as they enter the palace of the king.

Instead of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations, therefore, the peoples will praise you forever and ever(Ps 45.10–17).

The Orthodox Church understands these words of the psalm to be a prophecy directly related to Mary the Theotokos. According to the Gospel of Saint Luke which is read at the Vigil of each of her feasts, Mary herself speaks the following words:

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, hence-forth all generations shall call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation(Lk 1.47–50).

The main theme of the feast of Mary’s entrance to the Temple, repeated many times in the liturgical services, is the fact that she enters the Temple to become herself the living temple of God, thus inaugurating the New Testament in which are fulfilled the prophecies of old that “the dwelling of God is with man” and that the human person is the sole proper dwelling place of the Divine Presence (Ezek 37.27; Jn 14.15–23; Acts 7.47; 2 Cor 6.11; Eph 2.18–22; 1 Pet 2.4; Rev 22.1–4).

Today is the preview of the good will of God, of the preaching of the salvation of mankind. The Virgin appears in the temple of God, in anticipation proclaiming Christ to all. Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice, O Divine Fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation(Troparion).

The most pure Temple of the Saviour, the precious Chamber and ­Virgin, the Sacred Treasure of the Glory of God, is presented today to the house of the Lord. She brings with her the grace of the Spirit, which the angels of God do praise. Truly this woman is the Abode of Heaven!(Kontakion).

The fortieth chapter of Exodus about the building of the tabernacle is read at Vespers, together with passages from the First Book of Kings and the Prophecy of Ezekiel. Each one of these readings all end with exactly the same line, “for the glory of the Lord filled the house [tabernacle] of the Lord God Almighty” (Ex 40.35; 1 Kg 8.11; Ezek 44.4).

Once again on this feast, the Old Testament readings are interpreted as symbols of the Mother of God. This “glory of the Lord” is referred to the Mother of Christ and it “fills” her and all people after her who “hear the word of God and keep it” as the Gospel of the festal liturgy proclaims (Lk 11.37–28). The epistle reading at the Divine Liturgy also proclaims this very same theme (Heb 9.1–7).

Thus, the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple is the feast which celebrates the end of the physical temple in Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God. When the child Mary enters the temple, the time of the temple comes to an end and the “preview of the good will of God” is shown forth. On this feast we celebrate—in the person of Christ’s mother—that we too are the house and tabernacle of the Lord.

. . . We are the temple of the living God, as God said, “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor 6.16; Is 52.11). From the Orthodox Church in America.

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message November 8, 2020

Whenever we enter the church and draw near to the heavenly mysteries, we ought to approach with all humility and fear, both because of the presence of the angelic powers and out of the reverence due to the sacred oblation; for as the Angels are said to have stood by the Lord’s body when it lay in the tomb, so we must believe that they are present in the celebration of the Mysteries of His most sacred Body at the time of consecration.

St.  Bede the Venerable

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we celebrate today, the gathering of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and All the Heavenly, Bodiless Powers,  I pray that the numberless multitude of the angels, together with your own, personal guardian angels, bring you closer to God through their fantastic ministry. Please allow me to share with you a beautiful exhortation about this Feast by His Eminence Metropolitan Panteleimon of Antinoes:

The Synaxis of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel and all the Heavenly Powers

The love of Almighty God is a quality which is externalized through the creation, from non-being, of both the invisible world, or that of the angels, and the creation of the material and visible universe. The culmination of the whole creative love of God was expressed with the formation of human beings and finally with the salvation of our race in Christ.

The world of the angels was the first creative act of God. The holy angels are noetic creations, immaterial spirits which are forever in motion. Angels are free and independent spirits: they had the choice to remain firmly in their holiness or to turn to wickedness, as was the case with Lucifer, who conceived evil, and with all those angels who followed him and fell. The angels are bodiless and serve God, ceaselessly praising His sanctity and limitless power. God created angels in the beginning to be immortal and strangers to both corruption and death.

They are, however, capable of change, as regards their nature and their outlook, that is they have the ability to alter their nature and to make the leap from good to evil. They take their glory and brightness from God. Angels are circumscribed, they aren’t able to be everywhere at once, as is the case with God.

According to the sacred Tradition of the Church, angels are separated into three classes and nine celestial orders. The first class contains: the seven-winged seraphs, the many-eyed cherubs and the thrones; the second has the dominions, strongholds and powers, while the third consists of the principalities, archangels and angels. Today, the Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Archangels. Synaxis means ‘assembly’ or ‘conclave’. Why do we celebrate the assembly of the Archangels and all the Heavenly Angelic Powers?

When God created the angels, He give them complete freedom over their thinking. They had to show, however, that they were worthy of the honor with which they’d been invested. This is why their faith was tested. One of them, Lucifer, the first in all the ranks of the angels, the most splendid, most powerful and brilliant, succumbed to overweening pride and thought he could supplant God and place his own throne above that of God.

That was his sin: his great pride. He revolted against God and took with him a large number of angels who, with their fall, were transformed from lambent angels into dark ones, from holy to wicked. When the evil angels, the demons, fell, all the ranks of the heavenly powers assembled and the Archangel Michael stood in the middle and cried aloud: ‘Let us stand aright. Let us stand in fear of God’.

Immediately all the holy angels proved their loyalty to God and refused to follow the wicked thinking of Lucifer. This is the event we celebrate today. We don’t celebrate the fall of the evil angels, but the convocation of the holy ones who demonstrated their true and unshakable loyalty to the one True God and Creator of all things. The holy angels came together to express their loyalty to the Creator, and since then they’ve remained firm in holiness and goodness.

Today’s feast of the Archangels reminds us of two things. First, if the angels who fell into pride lost their merit and brightness through sin, how much more true is this of us Orthodox Christians, if we don’t meet the requirements of virtue? If such an irreparable calamity could befall Lucifer, because he wasn’t watchful and turned to wickedness, how much more will some such catastrophe occur to those who of their own volition remain bound to sin?

Secondly, we should learn from the example of the angels. Society today is a constant challenge and every day we have to confess our loyalty to Christ. When sin, however it presents itself, casts its enticing snares to trap us, then we have to be firm in the virtues.

We have to cry aloud in faith: ‘Let us stand aright, let us stand in fear of God’, so that what happened to Lucifer doesn’t happen to us as well.

We have to resist evil every day, because our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood but against the authorities and powers of darkness of this age. In this engagement, we have the holy angels on our side, continuously praying to the Lord for our salvation. Amen

Through the intercessions, prayers, guidance and protection of the Heavenly Hosts, may you all enjoy a blessed Feast!

With Much Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message November 1, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I trust and pray you are well. The recent months behind us, and the time ahead has been, and certainly will be full of challenges and opportunities to seek out, participate in, and extend God’s mercies. I do not know of anyone that has not been touched in some way by either the physical or economic impact of the pandemic. Of course, I believe that we are also spiritually impacted by the recent circumstances our world finds itself in right now. This is obvious and painful. 

Thankfully, there are in people dedicated completely to the welfare, betterment, dignity, comfort and protection of God’s precious children. Yes, indeed, the literal children – the vulnerable, little ones. But ALL his children who suffer, are in want, face crisis, have been displaced, lack basic needs, or find themselves lost in any way. For our Archdiocese, this group of protectors, sustainers, comforters and providers is the National Philoptochos Society, and by extension, parish-based women’s philanthropy groups, such as our Women’s Ministry Team.

The Philoptochos (literally translated as “Friends of the Poor”) is actually the second largest women’s auxiliary group in America. Our former Archbishop Michael established the Philoptochos to be the charitable arm of the church. Just like individual Greek Orthodox parishes, the Philoptochos is made up of chartered organizations based in local parishes. Philoptochos operates on the local, Metropolis and Archdiocese levels, just like the Archdiocese itself.  They have their own governing body, organization, physical headquarters and system.

They are a unique ministry under the umbrella of our National Church.
As our parish is newly-established, and have only received our charter as a parish in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America this past summer, we have yet to take the formal steps of maturing our Women’s Ministry Team into a Philoptochos Chapter. This will take time. Such transitions, while eventual and necessary, take time, sensitivity, education and conscious effort. No doubt, us being largely apart still, due to coronavirus, has dampened the efforts to work towards such a lofty goal.

I can say without reservation, that the most important, energizing, Christ-centered and pure work of the church in America, coupled with our liturgical life, is the work that these thousands of dedicated women work towards and provide. Without a doubt, and above the call, the ladies of our Women’s Ministry Team are included.

I bring this up on this day, as tomorrow, Sunday November 1, 2020 is the Feast Day of Saints Cosmas and Damian, two twin-brother physicians who dedicated their lives to healing for the sake of glorifying God and comforting His children. I have included within the body of this writing, an Encyclical from His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, as these saints are the patron saints of Philoptochos and by extension, our Women’s Ministry Team. Please prayerfully read his words and contemplate his message…

Feast of the Holy Unmercenaries, Saints Cosmas and Damian November 1, 2020

Πορευόµενοι δὲ κηρύσσετε λέγοντες ὅτι ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. Ἀσθενοῦντας θεραπεύετε, λεπροὺς καθαρίζετε, νεκροὺς ἐγείρετε, δαιµόνια ἐκβάλλετε· δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε.

And as you go, proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand! Cure the infirm, cleanse and restore the lepers, raise up the dead, cast out demons. Generously you have received, generously give.
                                                                                                                                                                             – (Matthew 10:7-8)

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America, Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we commemorate the Holy Unmercenaries, Cosmas and Damian – patrons of our National Philoptochos. These physician Saints are called Ἀνάργυροι – “renouncers of silver,” because they applied their healing arts without ever accepting payment of any kind. Theirs was a health care system that treated the whole person: body, mind, heart, and spirit.

Their ministry was based above all in love, and love was always their motivation. How appropriate it is that these brothers are the Heavenly Patrons of our National Philoptochos, for the Philoptochos is above all else a sisterhood of love – love for the poor, whether that poverty is economic, emotional, or spiritual.

Therefore, on this Sunday when we celebrate these wondrous Saints, our National Philoptochos has dedicated their collections that are being taken across the Archdiocese for the needs and the support of the benevolent and philanthropic ministries of our Mother Church of Constantinople.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate provides concrete services to orphans and the poor at the Baloukli Hospital and Senior Center. When you offer generously, I pray that each of you offer as to your own mother, with an intention to be of the most help possible. We depend on our National Ladies Philoptochos Society and local Philoptochos chapters for this special offering, and they deserve all our gratitude.
Especially in the time of the pandemic, the needs are great and conditions are challenging. Your generosity is a proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven has arrived, has come unto the world. For the Lord said that the ministries of healing recognize the gift of God that we have all received, and thus we can give to others.

Thank you for your love for our Holy Mother Church, and on behalf of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, I express the deep gratitude of the Great Church of Christ for the ongoing support of the Ladies Philoptochos Society and the faithful of our Holy Archdiocese for these precious ministries.

With paternal love in our Lord Jesus Christ,

† ELPIDOPHOROS Archbishop of America

As we do not have a tradition of “passing trays” on Sundays, I ask that if you feel compelled to participate in such an opportunity of giving, please send your donations to St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church, earmarked for Philoptochos, and we will supplement, and forward donations taken from our community. 

This also gives me the opportunity to thank our St. Anna’s Women’s Ministry Team, especially through our co-presidents Beverly Bartel and Joanne Dokos for the countless hours they all dedicate to the principals and actions of their precious and philanthropic work. The ladies of our WMT are gems in the crown that is our parish. 

May the Feast of the Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian be an inspiration to us all. 

May the work of our Women’s Ministry Team continue to be blessed, especially in times of great need, and while great limitations are placed on their efforts to gather, raise funds and work.

May our national organizations, especially those solely dedicated to philanthropic (philanthropy – literally translated as “friends of mankind”) work and Philoptochos specifically, find the support necessary to continue their mission.

May we all continue to navigate these days with faith, vision, trust, hope and joy. I love and miss you all tremendously. I remain,

With Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message October 25, 2020

The Holy Great-Martyr Demetrius – Celebrating Monday, October 26

This glorious and wonderworking saint was born in Thessalonica of noble and devout parents. Implored of God by childless parents, Demetrius was their only son, and so was raised and educated with great care. Demetrius’s father was a commander in Thessalonica. When his father died, Emperor Maximian appointed Demetrius as commander in his place.

As he appointed him, Maximian, an opponent of Christ, particularly recommended that he persecute and exterminate the Christians in Thessalonica. Demetrius not only disobeyed the emperor but openly confessed and preached the Lord Jesus Christ in the city of Thessalonica. When the emperor heard of this he became furious with Demetrius. Then, when he was returning from battle against the Sarmatians, Maximian stopped at Thessalonica to investigate the matter.

The emperor summoned Demetrius and questioned him about his faith. Demetrius openly acknowledged his Christian Faith to the emperor and also denounced the emperor’s idolatry. Maximian cast Demetrius into prison. Knowing what was awaiting him, Demetrius gave all his goods to his faithful servant Lupus to distribute to the poor, and joyfully awaited his imminent suffering for Christ the Lord. An angel of God appeared to him in prison, saying: “Peace be to you, O sufferer of Christ; be brave and be strong!” After several days, the emperor sent soldiers to the prison to kill Demetrius.

The soldiers found the saint of God at prayer and ran him through with lances. Christians secretly took his body and honorably buried it. Healing myrrh flowed from the body of the martyr of Christ, curing many of the sick. Soon, a small church was built over his relics.

An Illyrian nobleman, Leontius, was afflicted with an incurable illness. He hastened, with prayer, to the relics of St. Demetrius and was completely healed. In thanksgiving, Leontius erected a much larger church on the site of the old church. The saint appeared to him on two occasions.

When Emperor Justinian wanted to translate the relics of the saint from Thessalonica to Constantinople, flaming sparks sprang from the tomb and a voice was heard: “Stop, and do not touch!” And thus, the relics of St. Demetrius have remained for all time in Thessalonica. As the protector of Thessalonica, St. Demetrius has appeared many times, and on many occasions has saved Thessalonica from great calamity. His miracles are without number. The Russians considered St. Demetrius to be the protector of Siberia, which was conquered and annexed to Russia on October 26, 1581.

From the Prolog of Ochrid
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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message October 18, 2020

Apostle and Evangelist Luke of the Seventy

Saint Luke is commemorated on October 18.

St. Luke the Evangelist

The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, was a native of Syrian Antioch, a companion of the holy Apostle Paul (Phil.1:24, 2 Tim. 4:10-11), and a physician enlightened in the Greek medical arts. Hearing about Christ, Luke arrived in Palestine and fervently accepted the preaching of salvation from the Lord Himself.

As one of the Seventy Apostles, Saint Luke was sent by the Lord with the others to preach the Kingdom of Heaven during the Savior’s earthly life (Luke 10:1-3). After the Resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Saints Luke and Cleopas on the road to Emmaus.

Luke accompanied Saint Paul on his second missionary journey, and from that time they were inseparable. When Paul’s coworkers had forsaken him, only Luke remained to assist him in his ministry (2 Tim. 4:10-11). After the martyric death of the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul, Saint Luke left Rome to preach in Achaia, Libya, Egypt and the Thebaid. He ended his life by suffering martyrdom in the city of Thebes.

Tradition credits Saint Luke with painting the first icons of the Mother of God. “Let the grace of Him Who was born of Me and My mercy be with these Icons,” said the All-Pure Virgin after seeing the icons. Saint Luke also painted icons of the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul. Saint Luke’s Gospel was written in the years 62-63 at Rome, under the guidance of the Apostle Paul. In the preliminary verses (1:1-3), Saint Luke precisely sets forth the purpose of his work. He proposes to record, in chronological order, everything known by Christians about Jesus Christ and His teachings.

By doing this, he provided a firmer historical basis for Christian teaching (1:4). He carefully investigated the facts, and made generous use of the oral tradition of the Church and of what the All-Pure Virgin Mary Herself had told him (2:19, 51).

In Saint Luke’s Gospel, the message of the salvation made possible by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the preaching of the Gospel, are of primary importance.

Saint Luke also wrote the Acts of the Holy Apostles at Rome around 62-63 A.D. The Book of Acts, which is a continuation of the four Gospels, speaks about the works and the fruits of the holy Apostles after the Ascension of the Savior. At the center of the narrative is the Council of the holy Apostles at Jerusalem in the year 51, a Church event of great significance, which resulted in the separation of Christianity from Judaism and its independent dissemination into the world (Acts 15:6-29). The theological focus of the Book of Acts is the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who will guide the Church “into all truth” (John 16:13) until the Second Coming of Christ.

The holy relics of Saint Luke were taken from Constantinople and brought to Padua, Italy at some point in history. Perhaps this was during the infamous Crusade of 1204. In 1992, Metropolitan Hieronymus (Jerome) of Thebes requested the Roman Catholic bishop in Thebes to obtain a portion of Saint Luke’s relics for the saint’s empty sepulchre in the Orthodox cathedral in Thebes.

The Roman Catholic bishop Antonio Mattiazzo of Padua, noting that Orthodox pilgrims came to Padua to venerate the relics while many Catholics did not even know that the relics were there, appointed a committee to investigate the relics in Padua, and the skull of Saint Luke in the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Vico in Prague.

The skeleton was determined to be that of an elderly man of strong build. In 2001, a tooth found in the coffin was judged to be consistent with the DNA of Syrians living near the area of Antioch dating from 72-416 A.D. The skull in Prague perfectly fit the neck bone of the skelton. The tooth found in the coffin in Padua was also found to fit the jawbone of the skull.

Bishop Mattiazzo sent a rib from the relics to Metropolitan Hieronymus to be venerated in Saint Luke’s original tomb in the Orthodox cathedral at Thebes.

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message October 4, 2020

Wherever there are spiritual melodies, there does the grace of the Spirit come, sanctifying the mouth and soul.

 St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Sunday is dedicated as National Church Music Sunday. This observance of our chanters and  choir members falls on the Sunday following the Feast of St. Romanos the Melodist on October first.

Saint Romanos the Melodist was born in the fifth century in the Syrian city of Emesa of Jewish parents. After moving to Constantinople, he became a church sacristan in the temple of Hagia Sophia. The monk spent his nights alone at prayer in a field or in the Blachernae church beyond the city.

Saint Romanos was not a talented reader or singer. Once, on the eve of the Nativity of Christ, he read the Kathisma verses. He read so poorly that another reader had to take his place. The clergy ridiculed Romanos, which devastated him.

On the day of the Nativity, the Mother of God appeared to the grief-stricken youth in a vision while he was praying before her Kyriotissa icon. She gave him a scroll and commanded him to eat it. Thus was he given the gift of understanding, composition, and hymnography.

That evening at the all-night Vigil Saint Romanos sang, in a wondrous voice, his first Kontakion: “Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One…” All the hymns of Saint Romanus became known as kontakia, in reference to the Virgin’s scroll. Saint Romanus was also the first to write in the form of the Oikos, which he incorporated into the all-night Vigil at his places of residence (In Greek, “oikos”).

For his zealous service Saint Romanos was ordained as a deacon and became a teacher of song. Until his death, which occurred about the year 556, the Hierodeacon Romanos the Melodist composed nearly a thousand hymns, many of which are still used by Christians to glorify the Lord. About eighty survive.

This Sunday we will pray for and acknowledge the dedicated people who sing praises to God at our St. Anna Church. We honor those who chant the services today. And we support and pray for the members of our choir who patiently await the day we are permitted to utilize the choir in the church once again. To all of you, I offer my sincere thanks and the blessings of God.

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message September 27, 2020

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Indeed, we can all relate to the words of our hobbit friend. The past several months have been burdensome and difficult. They have brought out the best in us, and regrettably, perhaps the worst in us as well, at least fleetingly. But no matter, the good Lord has directed our steps, inspired us to find solutions to problems and strengthened us to endure tribulation, illness, financial stress and uncertainty.

I’ve missed seeing you all at the level of which we are accustomed. And I look forward to the day things are normalized, and we can emerge victoriously and peacefully from the rubble of a down-trodden pandemic.

But actually I write this message with hope, anticipation and good will. For sure, our day to day lives are still governed in many ways by coronavirus. But you know what? At church, we have made many strides in pushing forward.

Our Young Adults came together just last week and enjoyed the first (and I mean very first) social gathering on the lovely grounds of our church, since we purchased the property and moved in.

Sunday School will begin soon. This Sunday, our parents will meet after the Divine Liturgy to have the program unveiled and learn about the new and exciting direction we have taken during our continuing restrictions and circumstances. But again, I repeat – Sunday School is starting! This is nothing but a positive move and I pray our children and their families participate with enthusiasm and support. It will be worth it.

Our children and Sunday School families are not the only parishioners who will enjoy a revived religious education program. In mid-October, our Orthodox Inquirer’s Class and Bible Studies will also resume.

Both the Bible Study and Orthodoxy classes will be taught in-person and using Zoom. So please, I invite you all to participate in one or both learning opportunities.

Wednesday Evening Bible Study will explore a part of the Bible that is new to our class – The Old Testament. I look forward to sharing with you the works of the greatest apocryphal writers of the OT in Daniel, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.  Primarily, we will be studying the Book of Daniel, but that would be nearly impossible without referencing the other two. Please join us! More detailed information will follow.

I will be sending Zoom links to my Summer Bible Study list, so need to contact me if you were participating. But if you wish to join us via Zoom, please email me and I’ll add you to the list. In order to protect the Zoom experience, I will only send invites to people I actually know.

As for the Inquirer’s Class, we will be moving weekly Paraklesis Services to 6:30 pm and conducting the class from 7:30 to 9:00 pm on Thursday evenings. Who among us has learned all there is to know about our precious Orthodox Faith. None of us. So since it will be easy to Zoom in, please consider this lovely refresher course.

And as I always mention, please share this class with any of your friends, family, co-workers or neighbors who can benefit from the salvific message of the Gospel, the Church and our Lord Jesus Christ. Please, take the time to pray about who in your life would be inspired to learn of our Faith.

St. Anna Men’s and Women’s Ministries have been actively serving our parish, parishioners and the greater community throughout the pandemic and will continue to make a positive impact on those within and outside our direct purview.

Our GOYA calendar is finally beginning to take shape, and more active youth ministries are also directly around the bend.

So I’m putting it out there once again – there is allot going on and we are beginning to look and feel like a Greek Orthodox parish once again. Thank God!!!

Are you ready to get involved once again? Are you ready to return to worship. Remember, we safely have room for 100 people now. Are you ready to participate regularly in the active life of your St. Anna parish? At this time, the table is set for worship and ministry, as much as we can anyway. There is more and more going on, and my every intention is to serve your spiritual needs while glorifying and giving thanks to our Creator.

Yes it’s true. Things still look and feel differently. But honestly, not quite as much as before. Come for Liturgy. Grow with Sunday School. Become enriched with a class.

This is your parish. It’s here for you. As long as we continue to congregate with proper social distancing and other safety measures, we are confident that we will continue to build upon our vibrant parish life.

We wish these things had not happened in our time. We did not ask for these things. All we can do is make the best of our situation. God forbid I paraphrase Tolkien, but that’s pretty much the gist.

With Much Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message September 20, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I trust and pray you are all well.

Last week, I publicly unveiled our plan for Sunday School, set to begin next month. I must say, that our Sunday School teachers and administration have worked very hard to create (from scratch) our best offering during a time of great challenge. Some families want to return to live Sunday School. Some are not ready. Some teachers feel comfortable teaching live classes. Some do not. Governments, school boards, universities, professional sports leagues, corporations, movie studios, small business, households  and yes, even churches, have done their level best these past seven months to negotiate through the realities of a new normal.

St. Anna’s is no different. Nobody gave us a road map or a manual on how best to operate, minister or provide services for our people. In February, our community was full of excitement and the anticipation of being in our own church building. Five short weeks later, we were locked out of our own space and forced to worship via the internet. Months later, our church re-opened again. We did our best to accommodate our new realities, circumstances and limitations.

In re-opening, we followed the directives of our State, Metropolis, Archdiocese, and the best advice from our own Medical Advisory Ministry Team (MAMT)- a group of St. Anna medical professionals with differing experiences, political affiliations and scientific backgrounds – but ALL united in the Body of Christ and wanting to create the safest environment possible. Why would I mention politics? Because there are some, perhaps more than a few, who believe that our policies were politically motivated, not governed by data, obedience to religious authority, respect for civil authority, and good, common sense.

This brings me to our decision to begin on-line registration for Sunday church attendance. Although this has been a common practice throughout the nation once our churches reopened, this is admittedly something unique to our area. To my knowledge, here are no other Orthodox parishes in Utah that are resorting to this.

I owe you, the parishioners of St. Anna’s an apology for rolling out such a practice without a proper explanation. This lack of communication on my part has left a slight  vacuum filled with assumptions, misinformation and yes, even people’s unwarranted political suspicions. So please let me make something perfectly clear:

While it is true that due to coronavirus, participation in live worship has been reduced, it is equally true that Sunday participation is still active. On more than one occasion, we exceeded more than 70% of our total capacity to accommodate live, social distanced participation. In other words, people have thankfully continued to come to church. And with space nearly filling up, even before Sunday School begins, we felt it necessary to follow the lead of multiple Orthodox communities and offer on-line registration. This way, we would know if and when we reached capacity, BEFORE turning people away because the church filled up. Would you like to be the person who got up, dressed up, and came to church, only to be turned away? I thought not.  Again, I am sorry for not properly explaining the necessity for such action.

I am also grateful for our church leaders who continue to seek solutions, find the best ways to serve our parishioners and bring glory to our loving and merciful Lord. Your parish council and I are still searching for the proper balance of safety, ministry, and active participation.

When you come to church this Sunday, and I pray you do, you will notice that an additional 43 chairs have been added to the seating capacity of our sanctuary. I won’t explain how, you can see that for yourself. Our parish council, together with the best advice of the MAMT will determine if these additional seats will allow us to forego, at least for now, the necessity of preregistration for church attendance. Maybe we found our answer to our immediate challenge. Maybe we did not. But at least, as always, we will continue to think and pray ourselves out of a challenge. We will make our decisions based on love and the best way to serve the people of God. There are no other influences which determine our courses of action. If it’s determined that the best way to accommodate an increase in Sunday participation is to have you sign-up on line, I will trust that you know it is done out of blessed necessity.

This community was formed, not too long ago, based on faith, vision, authentic unity and the desire to break influences of negativity. Please join me in prayer, that the beginning of our Sunday School will be successful, that our families, and all families remain safe, and that our Lord Jesus Christ will be the center of every motivation in each of our hearts. I remain,

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message September 13, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Please pay prayerful attention to the following description of Monday’s Great Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Holy Cross by the Orthodox Church in America. We WILL offer live services on this Feast. Orthros will begin at 8:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy and Procession of the Cross at 9:00 am.

The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord: The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. The Emperor Hadrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and to build a temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter.

Pagans gathered at this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains, the Sepulchre of the Lord and the Life-Creating Cross were again discovered and opened for veneration. This took place under the Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) after his victory in the year 312 over Maxentius, ruler of the Western part of the Roman empire, and over Licinius, ruler of its Eastern part. In the year 323 Constantine became the sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire.

In 313 he had issued the Edict of Milan, by which the Christian religion was legalized and the persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the empire were stopped. The ruler Licinius, although he had signed the Edict of Milan to oblige Constantine, still fanatically continued the persecutions against Christians. Only after his conclusive defeat did the 313 Edict of Milan extend also to the Eastern part of the empire. The Holy Equal of the Apostles Emperor Constantine, having gained victory over his enemies in three wars with God’s assistance, had seen in the heavens the Sign of the Cross, and written beneath: “By this you shall conquer.”

Ardently desiring to find the Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Saint Constantine sent his mother, the pious Empress Helen (May 21), to Jerusalem, providing her with a letter to Saint Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Although the holy empress Helen was already in her declining years, she set about completing the task with enthusiasm. The empress gave orders to destroy the pagan temple and the statues in Jerusalem. Searching for the Life-Creating Cross, she made inquiry of Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search remained unsuccessful.

Finally, they directed her to a certain elderly Hebrew by the name of Jude who stated that the Cross was buried where the temple of Venus stood. They demolished the pagan temple and, after praying, they began to excavate the ground. Soon the Tomb of the Lord was uncovered. Not far from it were three crosses, a board with the inscription ordered by Pilate, and four nails which had pierced the Lord’s Body (March 6).

In order to discern on which of the three crosses the Savior was crucified, Patriarch Macarius alternately touched the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord touched the dead one, he came to life. Having beheld the raising of the dead man, everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross was found.

Christians came in a huge throng to venerate the Holy Cross, beseeching Saint Macarius to elevate the Cross, so that even those far off might reverently contemplate it. Then the Patriarch and other spiritual leaders raised up the Holy Cross, and the people, saying “Lord have mercy,” reverently prostrated before the Venerable Wood. This solemn event occurred in the year 326.

During the discovery of the Life-Creating Cross another miracle took place: a grievously sick woman, beneath the shadow of the Holy Cross, was healed instantly. The elder Jude and other Jews there believed in Christ and accepted Holy Baptism. Jude received the name Cyriacus and afterwards was consecrated Bishop of Jerusalem. During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363) he accepted a martyr’s death for Christ (see October 28).

The holy empress Helen journeyed to the holy places connected with the earthly life of the Savior, building more than 80 churches, at Bethlehem the birthplace of Christ, and on the Mount of Olives where the Lord ascended to Heaven, and at Gethsemane where the Savior prayed before His sufferings and where the Mother of God was buried after her death.

Saint Helen took part of the Life-Creating Wood and nails with her to Constantinople. The holy emperor Constantine gave orders to build at Jerusalem a majestic and spacious church in honor of the

Resurrection of Christ, also including under its roof the Life-Giving Tomb of the Lord and Golgotha. The temple was constructed in about ten years. Saint Helen did not survive until the dedication of the temple, she died in the year 327. The church was consecrated on September 13, 335. On the following day, September 14, the festal celebration of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross was established.

Another event connected to the Cross of the Lord is remembered also on this day: its return to Jerusalem from Persia after a fourteen year captivity. During the reign of the Byzantine emperor Phocas (602-610) the Persian emperor Khozroes II in a war against the Greeks defeated the Greek army, plundered Jerusalem and captured both the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord and the Holy Patriarch Zachariah (609-633).

The Cross remained in Persia for fourteen years and only under the emperor Heraclius (610-641), who with the help of God defeated Khozroes and concluded peace with his successor and son Syroes, was the Cross of the Lord returned to the Christians.

With great solemnity the Life-creating Cross was transferred to Jerusalem. Emperor Heraclius in imperial crown and royal purple carried the Cross of Christ into the temple of the Resurrection. With the emperor went Patriarch Zacharios. At the gates by which they ascended Golgotha, the emperor suddenly stopped and was not able to proceed farther. The holy Patriarch explained to the emperor that an angel of the Lord was blocking his way. The emperor was told to remove his royal trappings and to walk barefoot, since He Who bore the Cross for the salvation of the world from sin had made His way to Golgotha in all humility. Then Heraclius donned plain garb, and without further hindrance, carried the Cross of Christ into the church.

In a sermon on the Exaltation of the Cross, Saint Andrew of Crete (July 4) says: “The Cross is exalted, and everything true gathers together, the Cross is exalted, and the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast”.

Much Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 30, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today, August 29th marks one of the most sad and unjust days in the life of the Church. Perhaps their is no other account of martyrdom as senseless as that of the Baptizer. His life was stricken from this earth, not from the impetuousness of religious zeal, or from one’s theological dispute, but rather from the even darker places of human anger, spite, vengeance, revenge and blood-thirsty power. Please keep today in quiet contemplation and prayerful attention. Please also take the time to read the following account of today’s commemoration from the Orthodox Church in America.

The Beheading of the Prophet, Forerunner of the Lord, John the Baptist: The Evangelists Matthew (Mt.14:1-12) and Mark (Mark 6:14-29) provide accounts about the martyric end of John the Baptist in the year 32 after the Birth of Christ.

Following the Baptism of the Lord, Saint John the Baptist was locked up in prison by Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch (ruler of one fourth of the Holy Land) and governor of Galilee. (After the death of king Herod the Great, the Romans divided the territory of Palestine into four parts, and put a governor in charge of each part. Herod Antipas received Galilee from the emperor Augustus).

The prophet of God John openly denounced Herod for having left his lawful wife, the daughter of the Arabian king Aretas, and then instead cohabiting with Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip (Luke 3:19-20). On his birthday, Herod made a feast for dignitaries, the elders and a thousand chief citizens. Salome, the daughter of Herod, danced before the guests and charmed Herod. In gratitude to the girl, he swore to give her whatever she would ask, up to half his kingdom.

The vile girl on the advice of her wicked mother Herodias asked that she be given the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod became apprehensive, for he feared the wrath of God for the murder of a prophet, whom earlier he had heeded. He also feared the people, who loved the holy Forerunner. But because of the guests and his careless oath, he gave orders to cut off the head of Saint John and to give it to Salome.

According to Tradition, the mouth of the dead preacher of repentance once more opened and proclaimed: “Herod, you should not have the wife of your brother Philip.” Salome took the platter with the head of Saint John and gave it to her mother. The frenzied Herodias repeatedly stabbed the tongue of the prophet with a needle and buried his holy head in a unclean place. But the pious Joanna, wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, buried the head of John the Baptist in an earthen vessel on the Mount of Olives, where Herod had a parcel of land. (The Uncovering of the Venerable Head is celebrated February 24). The holy body of John the Baptist was taken that night by his disciples and buried at Sebastia, there where the wicked deed had been done.

After the murder of Saint John the Baptist, Herod continued to govern for a certain time. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, later sent Jesus Christ to him, Whom he mocked (Luke 23:7-12).

The judgment of God came upon Herod, Herodias and Salome, even during their earthly life. Salome, crossing the River Sikoris in winter, fell through the ice. The ice gave way in such a way that her body was in the water, but her head was trapped above the ice. It was similar to how she once had danced with her feet upon the ground, but now she flailed helplessly in the icy water. Thus she was trapped until that time when the sharp ice cut through her neck.

Her corpse was not found, but they brought the head to Herod and Herodias, as once they had brought them the head of Saint John the Baptist. The Arab king Aretas, in revenge for the disrespect shown his daughter, made war against Herod. The defeated Herod suffered the wrath of the Roman emperor Caius Caligua (37-41) and was exiled with Herodias first to Gaul, and then to Spain.

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, a Feast day established by the Church, is also a strict fast day because of the grief of Christians at the violent death of the saint. In some Orthodox cultures pious people will not eat food from a flat plate, use a knife, or eat food that is round in shape on this day. 

With Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony


Please remember the Giving Grid and participate! Please pay attention to the continued/altered Liturgical Schedule as influenced by the realities of an on-going pandemic and health crisis. Please be patient, prayerful and understanding.