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

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

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

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. 


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 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.” 


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.”


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

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

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


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. 


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

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message January 21, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This weekend will mark a most significant milestone in the history of our parish and. The craftsmen who designed and crafted our brass work and wood carvings will arrive this evening to begin installation tomorrow after the Divine Liturgy. I would like to welcome Nicholas Costopoulos, Evangelos Costopoulos and Constantinos Vlachothanasis, from Athens, Greece. They will be with us for one week in order to install the iconostasis, chandeliers and narthex furnishings. Once these tasks have been accomplished, we will just need to tidy up some minor construction details, wait for our new chairs to arrive on February 1st, then put the final layer of clearcoat on the floors. We are getting very close to our goal of entering the church. Please pray that this week will be productive, without incident, and all to His glory!

And speaking of this week, I pray you will be able to join us for the Divine Liturgy this coming Thursday in honor of St. Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople. The Orthos will begin at 9:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy at 10:00 am.

Saint Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople, a great Father and teacher of the Church, was born into a Christian family of eminent lineage in the year 329, at Arianzos (not far from the city of Cappadocian Nazianzos). His father, also named Gregory (January 1), was Bishop of Nazianzus. The son is the Saint Gregory Nazianzus encountered in Patristic theology. His pious mother, Saint Nonna (August 5), prayed to God for a son, vowing to dedicate him to the Lord. Her prayer was answered, and she named her child Gregory.

When the child learned to read, his mother presented him with the Holy Scripture. Saint Gregory received a complete and extensive education: after working at home with his uncle Saint Amphilochius (November 23), an experienced teacher of rhetoric, he then studied in the schools of Nazianzos, Caesarea in Cappadocia, and Alexandria. Then the saint decided to go to Athens to complete his education.

On the way from Alexandria to Greece, a terrible storm raged for many days. Saint Gregory, who was just a catechumen at that time, feared that he would perish in the sea before being cleansed in the waters of Baptism. Saint Gregory lay in the ship’s stern for twenty days, beseeching the merciful God for salvation. He vowed to dedicate himself to God, and was saved when he invoked the name of the Lord.

Saint Gregory spent six years in Athens studying rhetoric, poetry, geometry, and astronomy. His teachers were the renowned pagan rhetoricians Gymorias and Proeresias. Saint Basil, the future Archbishop of Caesarea (January 1) also studied in Athens with Saint Gregory. They were such close friends that they seemed to be one soul in two bodies. Julian, the future emperor (361-363) and apostate from the Christian Faith, was studying philosophy in Athens at the same time.

Upon completing his education, Saint Gregory remained for a certain while at Athens as a teacher of rhetoric. He was also familiar with pagan philosophy and literature.

In 358 Saint Gregory quietly left Athens and returned to his parents at Nazianzus. At thirty-three years of age, he received Baptism from his father, who had been appointed Bishop of Nazianzus. Against his will, Saint Gregory was ordained to the holy priesthood by his father. However, when the elder Gregory wished to make him a bishop, he fled to join his friend Basil in Pontus. Saint Basil had organized a monastery in Pontus and had written to Gregory inviting him to come.

Saint Gregory remained with Saint Basil for several years. When his brother Saint Caesarius (March 9) died, he returned home to help his father administer his diocese. The local church was also in turmoil because of the Arian heresy. Saint Gregory had the difficult task of reconciling the bishop with his flock, who condemned their pastor for signing an ambiguous interpretation of the dogmas of the faith.

Saint Gregory convinced his father of the pernicious nature of Arianism, and strengthened him in Orthodoxy. At this time, Bishop Anthimus, who pretended to be Orthodox but was really a heretic, became Metropolitan of Tyana. Saint Basil had been consecrated as the Archbishop of Caesarea, Cappadocia. Anthimus wished to separate from Saint Basil and to divide the province of Cappadocia.

Saint Basil the Great made Saint Gregory bishop of the city of Sasima, a small town between Caesarea and Tyana. However, Saint Gregory remained at Nazianzos in order to assist his dying father, and he guided the flock of this city for a while after the death of his father in 374.

Upon the death of Patriarch Valentus of Constantinople in the year 378, a council of bishops invited Saint Gregory to help the Church of Constantinople, which at this time was ravaged by heretics. Obtaining the consent of Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory came to Constantinople to combat heresy. In the year 379 he began to serve and preach in a small church called “Anastasis” (“Resurrection”). Like David fighting the Philistines with a sling, Saint Gregory battled against impossible odds to defeat false doctrine.

Heretics were in the majority in the capital: Arians, Macedonians, and Appolinarians. The more he preached, the more did the number of heretics decrease, and the number of the Orthodox increased. On the night of Pascha (April 21, 379) when Saint Gregory was baptizing catechumens, a mob of armed heretics burst into the church and cast stones at the Orthodox, killing one bishop and wounding Saint Gregory. But the fortitude and mildness of the saint were his armor, and his words converted many to the Orthodox Church.

Saint Gregory’s literary works (orations, letters, poems) show him as a worthy preacher of the truth of Christ. He had a literary gift, and the saint sought to offer his talent to God the Word: “I offer this gift to my God, I dedicate this gift to Him. Only this remains to me as my treasure. I gave up everything else at the command of the Spirit. I gave all that I had to obtain the pearl of great price. Only in words do I master it, as a servant of the Word. I would never intentionally wish to disdain this wealth. I esteem it, I set value by it, I am comforted by it more than others are comforted by all the treasures of the world. It is the companion of all my life, a good counselor and converser; a guide on the way to Heaven and a fervent co-ascetic.” In order to preach the Word of God properly, the saint carefully prepared and revised his works.

n five sermons, or “Theological Orations,” Saint Gregory first of all defines the characteristics of a theologian, and who may theologize. Only those who are experienced can properly reason about God, those who are successful at contemplation and, most importantly, who are pure in soul and body, and utterly selfless. To reason about God properly is possible only for one who enters into it with fervor and reverence.

Explaining that God has concealed His Essence from mankind, Saint Gregory demonstrates that it is impossible for those in the flesh to view mental objects without a mixture of the corporeal. Talking about God in a positive sense is possible only when we become free from the external impressions of things and from their effects, when our guide, the mind, does not adhere to impure transitory images. Answering the Eunomians, who would presume to grasp God’s Essence through logical speculation, the saint declared that man perceives God when the mind and reason become godlike and divine, i.e. when the image ascends to its Archetype. (Or. 28:17). Furthermore, the example of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets and also the Apostles has demonstrated, that the Essence of God is incomprehensible for mortal man. Saint Gregory cited the futile sophistry of Eunomios: “God begat the Son either through His will, or contrary to will. If He begat contrary to will, then He underwent constraint. If by His will, then the Son is the Son of His intent.”

Confuting such reasoning, Saint Gregory points out the harm it does to man: “You yourself, who speak so thoughtlessly, were you begotten voluntarily or involuntarily by your father? If involuntarily, then your father was under the sway of some tyrant. Who? You can hardly say it was nature, for nature is tolerant of chastity. If it was voluntarily, then by a few syllables you deprive yourself of your father, for thus you are shown to be the son of Will, and not of your father” (Or. 29:6).

Saint Gregory then turns to Holy Scripture, with particular attention examining a place where it points out the Divine Nature of the Son of God. Saint Gregory’s interpretations of Holy Scripture are devoted to revealing that the divine power of the Savior was actualized even when He assumed an impaired human nature for the salvation of mankind.

The first of Saint Gregory’s Five Theological Orations is devoted to arguments against the Eunomians for their blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Closely examining everything that is said in the Gospel about the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the saint refutes the heresy of Eunomios, which rejected the divinity of the Holy Spirit. He comes to two fundamental conclusions. First, in reading Holy Scripture, it is necessary to reject blind literalism and to try and understand its spiritual sense. Second, in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit operated in a hidden way. “Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us and makes the manifestation of Himself more certain. It was not safe, as long as they did not acknowledge the divinity of the Father, to proclaim openly that of the Son; and as long as the divinity of the Son was not accepted, they could not, to express it somewhat boldly, impose on us the burden of the Holy Spirit” (Or. 31:26).

The divinity of the Holy Spirit is a sublime subject. “Look at these facts: Christ is born, the Holy Spirit is His Forerunner. Christ is baptized, the Spirit bears witness to this… Christ works miracles, the Spirit accompanies them. Christ ascends, the Spirit takes His place. What great things are there in the idea of God which are not in His power? What titles appertaining to God do not apply also to Him, except for Unbegotten and Begotten? I tremble when I think of such an abundance of titles, and how many Names they blaspheme, those who revolt against the Spirit!” (Or. 31:29).

The Orations of Saint Gregory are not limited only to this topic. He also wrote Panegyrics on Saints, Festal Orations, two invectives against Julian the Apostate, “two pillars, on which the impiety of Julian is indelibly written for posterity,” and various orations on other topics. In all, forty-five of Saint Gregory’s orations have been preserved.

The letters of the saint compare favorably with his best theological works. All of them are clear, yet concise. In his poems as in all things, Saint Gregory focused on Christ. “If the lengthy tracts of the heretics are new Psalters at variance with David, and the pretty verses they honor are like a third testament, then we also shall sing Psalms, and begin to write much and compose poetic meters,” said the saint. Of his poetic gift the saint wrote: “I am an organ of the Lord, and sweetly… do I glorify the King, all a-tremble before Him.”

The fame of the Orthodox preacher spread through East and West. But the saint lived in the capital as though he still lived in the wilderness: “his food was food of the wilderness; his clothing was whatever necessary. He made visitations without pretense, and though in proximity of the court, he sought nothing from the court.”

The saint received a shock when he was ill. One whom he considered as his friend, the philosopher Maximus, was consecrated at Constantinople in Saint Gregory’s place. Struck by the ingratitude of Maximus, the saint decided to resign the cathedral, but his faithful flock restrained him from it. The people threw the usurper out of the city. On November 24, 380 the holy emperor Theodosius arrived in the capital and, in enforcing his decree against the heretics, the main church was returned to the Orthodox, with Saint Gregory making a solemn entrance. An attempt on the life of Saint Gregory was planned, but instead the assassin appeared before the saint with tears of repentance.

At the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, Saint Gregory was chosen as Patriarch of Constantinople. After the death of Patriarch Meletius of Antioch, Saint Gregory presided at the Council. Hoping to reconcile the West with the East, he offered to recognize Paulinus as Patriarch of Antioch.

Those who had acted against Saint Gregory on behalf of Maximus, particularly Egyptian and Macedonian bishops, arrived late for the Council. They did not want to acknowledge the saint as Patriarch of Constantinople, since he was elected in their absence.

Saint Gregory decided to resign his office for the sake of peace in the Church: “Let me be as the Prophet Jonah! I was responsible for the storm, but I would sacrifice myself for the salvation of the ship. Seize me and throw me… I was not happy when I ascended the throne, and gladly would I descend it.”

After telling the emperor of his desire to quit the capital, Saint Gregory appeared again at the Council to deliver a farewell address (Or. 42) asking to be allowed to depart in peace.

Upon his return to his native region, Saint Gregory turned his attention to the incursion of Appolinarian heretics into the flock of Nazianzus, and he established the pious Eulalius there as bishop, while he himself withdrew into the solitude of Arianzos so dear to his heart. The saint, zealous for the truth of Christ, continued to affirm Orthodoxy through his letters and poems, while remaining in the wilderness. He died on January 25, 389, and is honored with the title “Theologian,” also given to the holy Apostle and Evangelist John.

In his works Saint Gregory, like that other Theologian Saint John, directs everything toward the Pre-eternal Word. Saint John of Damascus (December 4), in the first part of his book An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, followed the lead of Saint Gregory the Theologian.

Saint Gregory was buried at Nazianzos. In the year 950, his holy relics were transferred to Constantinople into the church of the Holy Apostles. Later on, a portion of his relics was transferred to Rome.

In appearance, the saint was of medium height and somewhat pale. He had thick eyebrows, and a short beard. His contemporaries already called the archpastor a saint. The Orthodox Church, honors Saint Gregory as a second Theologian and insightful writer on the Holy Trinity. (From the OCA)

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message January 14, 2024

Whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.

Our Venerable Father, St. Anthony the Great

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, 

I look forward to being with you all tomorrow, for the Annual Cutting of the Vasilopita. The ladies of our Philoptochos Society and members of the community have worked very hard to celebrate this event, including the baking of many breads that will be for sale tomorrow. All this to benefit the ministries of Philoptochos and the St. Anna parish. 

Later this week, we will celebrate the Feast of St. Anthony the Great, regarded as the Father of monasticism. No, I am not a monastic, I am not a saint, and I am not great, by any measure, but as your Father Anthony, I hope to share Liturgy with you on January 17th. Orthros is at 9:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy at 10:00 am. We will also commemorate St. Athanasios on the 17th, who is commemorated the following day. 

Saint Anthony the Great is also well known for his long ascetical sermon in The Life of Saint Anthony by Saint Athanasios (Sections 16-34), could be called the first monastic Rule.

He was born in Egypt in the village of Coma, near the desert of the Thebaid, in the year 251. His parents were pious Christians of illustrious lineage. Anthony was a serious child and was respectful and obedient to his parents. He loved to attend church services, and he listened to the Holy Scripture so attentively, that he remembered what he heard all his life.

When Saint Anthony was about twenty years old, he lost his parents, but he was responsible for the care of his younger sister. Going to church about six months later, the youth reflected on how the faithful, in the Acts of the Apostles (4:35), sold their possessions and gave the proceeds to the Apostles for the needy.

Then he entered the church and heard the Gospel passage where Christ speaks to the rich young man: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give it to the

poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me” (Mt.19:21). Anthony felt that these words applied to him. Therefore, he sold the property that he received after the death of his parents, then distributed the money to the poor, and left his sister in the care of pious virgins in a convent.

Leaving his parental home, Saint Anthony began his ascetical life in a hut not far from his village. By working with his hands, he was able to earn his livelihood and also alms for the poor. Sometimes, the holy youth also visited other ascetics living in the area, and from each he sought direction and benefit. He turned to one particular ascetic for guidance in the spiritual life.

In this period of his life Saint Anthony endured terrible temptations from the devil. The Enemy of the race of man troubled the young ascetic with thoughts of his former life, doubts about his chosen path, concern for his sister, and he tempted Anthony with lewd thoughts and carnal feelings. But the saint extinguished that fire by meditating on Christ and by thinking of eternal punishment, thereby overcoming the devil.

Realizing that the devil would undoubtedly attack him in another manner, Saint Anthony prayed and intensified his efforts. Anthony prayed that the Lord would show him the path of salvation. And he was granted a vision. The ascetic beheld a man, who by turns alternately finished a prayer, and then began to work. This was an angel, which the Lord had sent to instruct His chosen one.

Saint Anthony tried to accustom himself to a stricter way of life. He partook of food only after sunset, he spent all night praying until dawn. Soon he slept only every third day. But the devil would not cease his tricks, and trying to scare the monk, he appeared under the guise of monstrous phantoms. The saint however protected himself with the Life-Creating Cross. Finally the Enemy appeared to him in the guise of a frightful looking small dark figure, and hypocritically declaring himself beaten, he thought he could tempt the saint into vanity and pride. The saint, however, vanquished the Enemy with prayer.

For even greater solitude, Saint Anthony moved farther away from the village, into a graveyard. He asked a friend to bring him a little bread on designated days, then shut himself in a tomb. Then the devils pounced upon the saint intending to kill him, and inflicted terrible wounds upon him. By the providence of the Lord, Anthony’s friend arrived the next day to bring him his food. Seeing him lying on the ground as if dead, he took him back to the village. They thought the saint was dead and prepared for his burial. At midnight, Saint Anthony regained consciousness and told his friend to carry him back to the tombs.

Saint Anthony’s staunchness was greater than the wiles of the Enemy. Taking the form of ferocious beasts, the devils tried to force the saint to leave that place, but he defeated them by trusting in the Lord. Looking up, the saint saw the roof opening, as it were, and a ray of light coming down toward him. The demons disappeared and he cried out, “Where have You been, O Merciful Jesus? Why didn’t You appear from the very beginning to end my pain?”

The Lord replied, “I was here, Anthony, but wanted to see your struggle. Now, since you have not yielded, I shall always help you and make your name known throughout all the world.” After this vision Saint Anthony was healed of his wounds and felt stronger than before. He was then thirty-five years of age.

Having gained spiritual experience in his struggle with the devil, Saint Anthony considered going into the Thebaid desert to serve the Lord. He asked the Elder (to whom he had turned for guidance at the beginning of his monastic journey) to go into the desert with him. The Elder, while blessing him in the then as yet unheard of exploit of being a hermit, decided not to accompany him because of his age.

Saint Anthony went into the desert alone. The devil tried to hinder him, by placing a large silver disc in his path, then gold, but the saint ignored it and passed by. He found an abandoned fort on the other side of the river and settled there, barricading the entrance with stones. His faithful friend brought him bread twice a year, and there was water inside the fort.

Saint Anthony spent twenty years in complete isolation and constant struggle with the demons, and he finally achieved perfect calm. The saint’s friends removed the stones from the entrance , and they went to Saint Anthony and besought him to take them under his guidance. Soon Saint Anthony’s cell was surrounded by several monasteries, and the saint acted as a father and guide to their inhabitants, giving spiritual instruction to all who came into the desert seeking salvation. He increased the zeal of those who were already monks, and inspired others with a love for the ascetical life. He told them to strive to please the Lord, and not to become faint-hearted in their labors. He also urged them not to fear demonic assaults, but to repel the Enemy by the power of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord.

In the year 311 there was a fierce persecution against Christians, in the reign of the emperor Maximian. Wishing to suffer with the holy martyrs, Saint Anthony left the desert and went to Alexandria. He openly ministered to those in prison, he was present at the trial and interrogations of the confessors, and accompanying the martyrs to the place of execution. It pleased the Lord to preserve him, however, for the benefit of Christians.

At the close of the persecution, the saint returned to the desert and continued his exploits. The Lord granted the saint the gift of wonderworking, casting out demons and healing the sick by the power of his prayer. The great crowds of people coming to him disrupted his solitude, and he went off still farther, into the inner desert where he settled atop a high elevation. But the brethren of the monasteries sought him out and asked him to visit their communities.

Another time Saint Anthony left the desert and arrived in Alexandria to defend the Orthodox Faith against the Manichaean and Arian heresies. Knowing that the name of Saint Anthony was venerated by all the Church, the Arians said that he adhered to their heretical teaching. But Saint Anthony publicly denounced Arianism in front of everyone and in the presence of the bishop. During his brief stay at Alexandria, he converted a great multitude of pagans to Christ.

People from all walks of life loved the saint and sought his advice. Pagan philosophers once came to Abba Anthony intending to mock him for his lack of education, but by his words he reduced them to silence. Emperor Constantine the Great (May 21) and his sons wrote to Saint Anthony and asked him for a reply. He praised the emperor for his belief in Christ, and advised him to remember the future judgment, and to know that Christ is the true King.

Saint Anthony spent eighty-five years in the solitary desert. Shortly before his death, he told the brethren that soon he would be taken from them. He instructed them to preserve the Orthodox Faith in its purity, to avoid any association with heretics, and not to be negligent in their monastic struggles. “Strive to be united first with the Lord, and then with the saints, so that after death they may receive you as familiar friends into the everlasting dwellings.”

The saint instructed two of his disciples, who had attended him in the final fifteen years of his life, to bury him in the desert and not in Alexandria. He left one of his monastic mantles to Saint Athanasios of Alexandria (January 18), and the other to Saint Serapion of Thmuis (March 21). Saint Anthony died peacefully in the year 356, at age 105, and he was buried in the desert by his disciples.

The Life of the famed ascetic Saint Anthony the Great was written by Saint Athanasius of Alexandria. This is the first biography of a saint who was not a martyr, and is considered to be one of the finest of Saint Athanasius’s writings. Saint John Chrysostom recommends that this Life be read by every Christian.

“These things are insignificant compared with Anthony’s virtues,” writes Saint Athanasios, “but judge from them what the man of God Anthony was like. From his youth until his old age, he kept his zeal for asceticism, he did not give in to the desire for costly foods because of his age, nor did he alter his clothing because of the infirmity of his body. He did not even wash his feet with water. He remained very healthy, and he could see well because his eyes were sound and undimmed. Not one of his teeth fell out, but near the gums they had become worn due to his advanced age. He remained strong in his hands and feet…. He was spoken of everywhere, and was admired by everyone, and was sought even by those who had not seen him, which is evidence of his virtue and of a soul dear to God.”

The following works of Saint Anthony have come down to us:

Twenty Sermons on the virtues, primarily monastic (probably spurious).

Seven Letters to various Egyptian monasteries concerning moral perfection, and the monastic life as a spiritual struggle.

A Rule for monastics (not regarded as an authentic work of Saint Anthony).

In the year 544 the relics of Saint Anthony the Great were transferred to Alexandria, and after the conquest of Egypt by the Saracens in the seventh century, they were transferred to Constantinople. The holy relics were transferred from Constantinople in the tenth-eleventh centuries to a diocese outside Vienna. In the fifteenth century they were brought to Arles (in France), to the church of Saint Julian.

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message January 7, 2024

The Memory of the just is observed with hymns of praise; for you, suffices the testimony of the Lord, O Forerunner. You have proved to be truly more vernerable than the prophets, since you were granted to baptize in the river the One Whom they proclaimed. Therefore, when for the truth you had contested, rejoicing, to those in Hades you preached the Gospel, that God was manifested in the flesh, and takes away the sins of the world, and grants to us the great mercy.

Apolytikion of St. John the Baptist

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the Orthodox Church it is customary, on the day following the Great Feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God, to remember those saints who participated directly in the sacred event. So, on the day following the Theophany of the Lord, the Church honors the one who participated directly in the Baptism of Christ, placing his own hand upon the head of the Savior. Therefore, tomorrow we commemorate the primary Feast of John the Baptizer.

Saint John, the holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, whom the Lord called the greatest of the prophets, concludes the history of the Old Testament and opens the era of the New Testament. The holy Prophet John bore witness to the Only-Begotten Son of God, incarnate in the flesh. Saint John was accounted worthy to baptize Him in the waters of the Jordan, and he was a witness of the Theophany of the Most Holy Trinity on the day of the Savior’s Baptism.

The holy Prophet John, the son of the Priest Zachariah and Righteous Elizabeth, was related to the Lord on His mother’s side. The holy Forerunner, John, was born six months before Christ. The Archangel Gabriel announced his birth in the Temple at Jerusalem, revealing to Zachariah that a son was to be born to him.

Through the prayers offered beforehand, the child was filled with the Holy Spirit. Saint John prepared himself in the wilds of the desert for his great service by a strict life, by fasting, prayer and sympathy for the fate of God’s people.

At the age of thirty, he came forth preaching repentance. He appeared on the banks of the Jordan, to prepare the people by his preaching to accept the Savior of the world. In church hymnology, Saint John is called a “bright morning star,” whose gleaming outshone the brilliance of all the other stars, announcing the coming dawn of the day of grace, illumined with the light of the spiritual Sun, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Having baptized the sinless Lamb of God, Saint John soon died a martyr’s death, beheaded by the sword on orders of King Herod at the request of his daughter Salome. (On Saint John the Baptist, see Mt.3:1-16, 11:1-19, 14:1-12; Mark 1:2-8, 6:14-29; Luke 1:5-25, 39-80, 3:1-20, 7:18-35, 9:7-9; John 1:19-34, 3:22-26).

Thank you to all who participated in today’s Teaching Divine Liturgy and who celebrated with us, the Feast of Theophany.

Please be reminded that next week the Philoptochos will celebrate their annual Vasilopita Celebration. 

Lastly, please be aware that the 2024 Parish Council will receive their Oath of Office tomorrow following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Please pray for these servant-leaders who dedicate themselves to the function, well-being and ministry of our sacred parish.  

With Love in our One Triune God,

Fr. Anthony Savas