“Let us all praise Amphilochios, the new star of the Church of Christ, truly the ornament of the island of Patmos, the beauty of monastics and lover of piety, the lamp of prudence; he intercedes to the Lord that He may have mercy on our souls.”
Apolytikion Hymn of the Newly-Canonized St. Amphilochios
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As of This past Wednesday, there is a new Saint in the Orthodox Church!
Elder Amphilochios Makris, now listed among the Saints as St. Amphilochios, was born on the island of the Apocalypse, Patmos in 1889. He was a great defender of Orthodoxy, having suffered much throughout the years of Italian Fascist Occupation of the Greek Dodecanese Islands.
During those years he set up secret schools and made sure that the Greek language and Orthodox faith continued to be taught to the children of these islands, despite the best attempts of the Fascists and the Church of Rome to tear them from their roots.
For many years he was abbot of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian on Patmos. He was a spiritual child of Saint Nektarios of Aegina. He also founded the women’s monastery of The Annunciation (Evangelismos) of the Mother of the Beloved in 1937, which still thrives today as a beacon for the faithful.
He was noted for his many virtues, his love, humility and fatherly concern for his spiritual children. Father Amphilochios was a great believer in the strength of monasticism and in Christian mission. He himself traveled as a preacher throughout the war years and beyond.
In addition, Father Amphilochios founded other monasteries throughout the Greek islands, and was responsible for orphanages and various charitable institutions. The Elder reposed in 1970. The Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople announced on August 29, 2018, that he is to be listed among the saints. St. Amphilochios reposed in the Year 1970.
May Saint Amphilochios of Patmos intercede for us!
Some Other Important Announcements to Keep in Mind:
Please enjoy a blessed Labor Day Weekend. However, I trust that your weekend activities will not interrupt your participation in the Divine Liturgy on either Saturday, September 1 in commemoration of the Indiction (Ecclesiastical New Year) or, of course on Sunday. Service times are normal.
Please be reminded that the following Sunday, September 9th, is the first day of Sunday School for the 2018-2019 School Year. As is our St. Anna Tradition, we will recognize our teachers for their years of service, bless the new School Year and the students with an Agiasmos Service (Small Blessing of the Waters), as well as sanctify the classrooms. Join us on this special day and get your children involved in our dynamic Sunday School program.
Please be aware that beginning on September 9th, in conjunction with the start of Sunday School, there will be a change to the start time of Sunday Services: The Orthros will begin at 9:00 am and will be completed, together with the Singing of the Great Doxology by 10:15 am. In other words, services are moving up a few minutes in order to accommodate a timelier finish for Sunday School classes. So please, please, let’s break our bad, summer habit of coming late to the Liturgy.
Please, when you look at the flyer about the Diamond Nugget Necklace that is to be won in a Drawing for the benefit of our Capital Campaign and Building Fund, know that tickets will be available on Sunday in the Fellowship Hall. This gorgeous piece was hand-crafted for St. Anna’s by the renowned jeweler, Sue Gragg of Sue Gragg precious Jewels in Dallas, TX. Sue and Jimmy Gragg are great friends of our St. Anna parish. They have donated to our church on multiple occasions throughout the years, including the inaugural $10,000 donation which established our Building Fund. Ironically, the retail value of this piece of fine jewelry is also $10,000. Let us honor their generosity by participating in this drawing. Only 200 tickets were printed! The Drawing will take place at the Women’s Ministry Team’s Tables Extraordinaire event.
Lastly, Saturday September 1st marks my Third Year Anniversary as the priest of St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church. Words cannot express my profound gratitude for the blessing of serving you and our God-inspired, Spirit-filled and loving parish. Also, and much more importantly, that means we also mark the Four Year Anniversary of the founding of the Greek Orthodox Mission Parish of Utah. For those of you new to the community, that’s us! Happy Anniversary to us all!
Through the prayers and intercessions of St. Amphilochios of Patmos, I remain,
With Much Love in Christ,
“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 venerable 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 sin of the world, and grants to us the great mercy.” — Festal Apolytikion Hymn of St. John the Baptizer and Forerunner of Christ.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We have just celebrated the Leave Taking of the Dormition of the Theotokos. In other words, the liturgical cycle of commemorating her falling asleep and assumption into the heavens is now complete. We, as did the holy Apostles, weep and mourn the earthly loss of the presence of the Mother of God. But we, also like the Apostles, receive joyfully the promise of the Resurrection that she received, that her Son promised, and that John the Baptist preached.
Unlike the peaceful and solemn end of days experienced by the Theotokos, St. John the Forerunner was subject to a vile death, conjured up by the violent rage and envious darkness of human kind’s most wicked devise. While the Lord received the gentile soul of His mother, carried by angels and caressed by His hand, the tragic and most unjust martyrdom of the Baptist is among the most horrific acts of the New Testament Cannon, and the actual, entirety of Church history.
We commemorate his beheading this coming Wednesday. It is a strict fast day. Its is a day of prayer and contemplation. It is a day which lifts up, for sacred consideration, the ministry of he who preached in the wilderness, baptized in the Jordan, called us unto repentance, and gave hope, even to those in Hades, that the salvation of mankind is the will, the desire and the plan of God.
I invite you, therefore, to consider these ten, lovely treatise statements concerning the life, ministry and calling of St. John the Baptist. They are excerpts from the writings of the Russian Orthodox Church in the UK and illustrate plainly and powerfully, why we lift up the Baptist wish such adoration. The eccentric figure that is John the Baptist is unique in character and completely defined by innocence and piety. His life is blessed. His life is tragic. His life is sacrifice. His life is witness. Please read on…
Why does the Church give such veneration to St John the Baptist, even fixing a strict fast day in his honor? Here are ten reasons:
- Our Lord Himself said that St John was the greatest prophet ‘among those born of women’ (Luke 7, 28). Some hearing these words are surprised. They ask: Surely, Christ Himself is the greatest man born of women? However, Christ was not born of a woman (i.e. a married female), he was born of a Virgin. Therefore, in obedience to our Lord’s words, that St John is the greatest born of women, the Church duly honors him. In fact, there are no fewer than six feasts of St John in the Church Year. The first is his Conception on 23 September. Then comes his commemoration on 7 January, the day after the Feast of the Baptism of Christ. The third is the Second Finding of his head on 24 February. His next feast is the Third Finding of his head on 25 May. The fifth is his Birth, or Nativity, on 24 June, and finally today’s feast, the last in the Church Year, his Beheading on 29 August.
- The parents of St John were great and holy people in their own right and their child was a gift in answer to prayer made to them in their pious old age. His father was St Zachariah, Prophet, Priest and Martyr. His mother, St Elizabeth, was the sister of St Anna, that is the sister of the mother of the Mother of God. This relationship between the Mother of God and her kinsman, St John, is expressed in the icon which hangs over the holy doors in every Orthodox church. This shows Christ in the center, the Mother of God on His right and St John the Baptist on His left. This icon is called the Deisis, and signifies how our salvation is related not only to Our Savior, but also to His Holy Mother and St John.
- For this reason St John has the special title of the ‘Forerunner’, in Greek ‘Prodromos’, which in is a common Greek Christian name. St John alone can claim to be the Forerunner of Christ, therefore the pioneer of our Faith. How can we fail therefore to give him special honor?
- The Holy Forerunner is also given the title of ‘Prophet’. In fact it can be said that he was the last Prophet of the Old Testament. As you may recall, the last seventeen books of the Old Testament are the Prophetic Books, from St Isaiah to St Malachi. In this way, we can also say that St John is the first Prophet of the New Testament. Thus, St John can be considered as a hinge, joining the Old Testament and the New Testament. We also note that not only was St John the Baptist the first Prophet of the New Testament, but that the last Prophet of the Old Testament was also called John. This was St John the Theologian, who wrote the last book of the New Testament and its only prophetic book, the Book of Revelation.
- St John the Baptist, the first Prophet of the New Testament, was also the first Martyr during Christ’s public preaching, some three years before the holy Archdeacon Stephen, who was the First Martyr after Christ’s Ascension.
- It can also be said that St John the Baptist was the first Monk, indeed this is why he is the patron-saint of monks and the monastic life. This is the meaning of the first Gospel today, in which our Lord tells the young man who wishes to follow him, first of all to obey the commandments and then to give up all his riches. That is how St Antony the Great decided to go into the desert, on hearing this very Gospel, so imitating St John the Baptist. We recall the importance of monastic life for the Orthodox Church. Monasticism is the barometer of the Church. When monastic life flourishes, so the whole Church flourishes. When monastic life is weak, then the whole Church is weak. And St John stands at the head of this.
- The first step towards monastic life, and indeed towards Christian life in general, is repentance. And this is the first word of St John. Therefore he is great, because he preaches repentance. Repentance is the letter A of the Orthodox Christian alphabet, it is the mark of truth, the mark of sobriety, the absence of exaltation, the sense of reality. Thus, St John’s first disciples, Andrew and Peter, were also the first disciples of Christ. And we should not forget that St John preached repentance not only on earth, but also in Hades. After his beheading, St John went down to Hades, where all departed mankind was held captive, and there preached to all generations, from Adam and Eve on, of Christ’s imminent coming, in less than three years from then.
- The first step in monastic life is obedience. This obedience can be seen in St John’s prayer and fasting. He prayed in the desert and ate honey and locusts, dressed in camel-hair. He was ministered to by angels. Thus, in the Church he is called ‘a heavenly man and an earthly angel’. His obedience can be seen in his accepting to baptise the Son of God, Whose shoelaces he, in his own words, was unworthy even to undo.
- The second step in monastic life is poverty, not only in terms of having no money, but also in having no power. St John fearlessly denounced power that was abused, that was used to do evil. This is the meaning of today’s second Gospel, the Gospel for St John. This Gospel tells us how St John had denounced Herod Antipas, the son of the Herod who had slaughtered the Holy Innocents nearly thirty years before in Bethlehem, who at the time of St John’s preaching was the ruler in Galilee.
- Finally, St John was great, because he heralded the third step in monastic life, that of chastity.
If you are at all able, please join us on Wednesday, August 29th for the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. Orthros begins at 9:30 am. Followed by the Divine Liturgy at 10:30 am.
Holy Forerunner, Prophet and Baptist John, pray to God for us!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Since some of our parish children have already started school, and many others begin next week, I offer my prayers for a beneficial and fruitful, new school year. May our kids continue to grow in God’s love for them, and be inspired through the wonderment of creation that surrounds them.
As my very-busy summer also comes to an end, I would like to announce that I will be on vacation next week, beginning with this coming Sunday, August 19th. Fr. Elias will be celebrating the Divine Liturgy and I am grateful for his generous love towards our community as he offers his prayerful assistance.
Please feel free to contact me with any (God forbid) emergencies. I will be remaining in town, getting caught up on projects, making plans for ministry in the coming months and helping with our kids’ first week back at school. Enjoy the weekend! See you soon!
Much Love in XC,
Remember that Sunday School resumes Sunday, September 9th. Please have your children registered and in attendance as we Bless and Sanctify their new year on that day.
Dearly Beloved in the Lord,
With the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos to be celebrated next Wednesday morning, I thought it best to share with you a lovely message that was sent to me today; the Encyclical for the Dormition by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America. His thoughts and message for us captures exquisitely the intimate and lovely spirit of these days, as we approach with extreme humility, the Falling Asleep of the Theotokos. Please take the time to read the important information that I have included, following the message from His Eminence. Thank you.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we celebrate this blessed Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, “in radiant joy with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs together with the angels and the apostles,” we give thanks to God for the revelation of His abundant grace and glorious power through the life and witness of the Virgin Mary. In our commemoration of her and the holiness of her life and service, we are reminded of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, All things are possible to the one who believes. (Mark 9:23).
This assurance of Christ, that through faith the impossible becomes possible, that as people of God we can move beyond limitations to accomplish great and marvelous things in His name, was the focus of the theme of our recent Clergy-Laity Congress. In faith and love we gathered together in Boston and affirmed that all things are possible to the one who believes in Christ.
Today we can once again offer a witness of this truth. In our reflection on the life of the Theotokos, we know that she found favor with God, the Holy Spirit came upon her, and she conceived and carried in her womb the Son of God. She asked the angel following the annunciation of the Incarnation of Christ, How shall this be, since I have no husband? (Luke 1:34) How could this be accomplished by this holy and humble handmaiden of God? All things are possible to the one who believes.
On this Feast of the Dormition, we marvel at her repose and the witness that she offered in passing through death unto eternal life. We sing, “She who is higher than the heavens and more glorious than the cherubim, she who is held in greater honor than all creation…today commends her most pure soul into the hands of her Son.” How did this happen? How does she continue to offer intercessions on behalf of us all? How did she receive such an exalted place? All things are possible to the one who believes.
The potential of this promise through the power of faith and through the holy witness of the Theotokos offers us assurance and strength. The disciples of our Lord were encouraged and guided by her and her holiness of life. Her repose became a celebration of the abundant and eternal life that comes through faith in Christ. This Feast is one of hope and assurance, affirming that even through our burdens and challenges, even in the face of obstacles that seem insurmountable, even through physical hardships and spiritual struggles, all things are possible to the one who believes in Christ.
The power of faith and the unlimited possibilities before us for ministry and service should also be our focus. At our recent Clergy-Laity Congress, we affirmed our commitment to supporting the work of our parishes and helping faithful throughout our Holy Archdiocese explore the potential of the witness of our Orthodox faith. Together we are committed to ensuring the strength and vitality of our witness. I ask that you continue to focus on this theme as you plan for a new ecclesiastical year and consider the impact and potential of our sacred work.
May the blessings of you the Lord be with you on this Feast of the Dormition, and may we seek the intercessions of the Most Holy Theotokos as we explore the boundless and unlimited potential of our faith in Christ.”
With paternal love in Him,
† D E M E T R I O S
I would also remind you of a few important items in the life of our community:
For those of you who have received the survey regarding our parish future, please take it on line or request a paper copy. It is imperative that we have a strong representation of the opinions, aspirations and sensibilities of the individual, St. Anna households. It only takes about 20 minutes and is easy to negotiate through and answer. Please, take the survey.
In case you missed the article in last Sunday’s Salt Lake Tribune about the reception of our holy Relics and how they are associated with our filial relationship with the St. Thomas More community, I have included the link for you. You can find the article here. I suggest that even if you have read the article in its printed version, please read it online also. The Salt Lake Tribune relies on the interest of its audience in order to produce stories that highlight our community. In other words, if they can measure a sizable interest in stories about the Orthodox Church in Utah, they will give us more attention. It’s that simple.
In relation to our holy Relic of St. Anna, we are in the process of establishing a shrine within our sanctuary, dedicated to the ministry and life of St. Anna. This will be a most appropriate space for the veneration and appreciation of her holy presence in our lives and in our church. Please pay special attention to the catalogue of needed items for our shrine that are listed in this week’s Bulletin. Your prayerful and generous support of this effort is greatly appreciated.
Please be aware that this Friday evening, August 10th, following the Paraklesis Service, the children of our Vacation Bible School will sing the hymns and songs that they learned during camp. Thank you to Barbara Hillas and Crew for putting together such a wonderful experience for our little ones. We hope to spiritually benefit from a strong participation of our VBS students at the program. Parents, please, if you brought your children to VBS, please allow them to participate in the program as well. Thank you so much!
With Much Love in Christ,