What made him (Abraham) the father of a multitude of nations? Is it not his faith in promises which were incomprehensible at the time? He was holding down his only heir, ready to sacrifice him, and miraculously, still did not doubt that numerous progeny would be born of him! Would not he appear to be mad to those who look at reality through reason? But the final outcome of these events effected through the grace of God, showed that faith is not madness, but rather a knowledge surpassing all reason.St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki on The Book of Genesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah were gifted with a son in their old age. God promised that he would enjoy a multitude of descendants from his miraculously born son. We can only imagine the joy and pride they felt at this time. God had tested Abraham’s trust and fidelity before. And He would do it again, as we read in Genesis 22:1-14, but this time, He would involve Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac.
God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
So we’re perfectly clear: God is commanding Abraham to kill his beloved son and offer him as a sacrifice. And just like in his previous trials, Abraham does not hesitate. He does not question. He does not doubt God’s wisdom or purpose. He just does what is required of him. He prepared for his journey; saddling his beast, chopping wood for the sacrificial fire, collecting two servants and his son, and he sets out on his three-day journey to the place where God appointed these events to happen.
When they arrive, he commands the servants to wait with the donkey, he loads the wood upon Isaac’s back, takes the knife and then proceeds to the place. Curious, Isaac notices that his father has built an altar and started a fire, but has no lamb to offer as a sacrifice. When he asks about the noticeably-missing object, Abraham assures him that God will not neglect in providing a sacrificial lamb.
Abraham then binds up his willing son, lays him across the altar, and lifts his knife above Isaac’s throat. But before he strikes, an angel of the Lord commands him “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
Immediately, Abraham sees a young ram with his horns caught in the bushes and offers it as a sacrifice in the place of his son.
I think this story is familiar to us. I also believe that the story of Abraham and Isaac is especially relevant to our spiritual well-being at this time, as this Saturday, September 14th, we will celebrate the Universal Exultation of our Lord’s Precious and Life-Giving Cross. You may not have realized it, but the account of Isaac’s near sacrifice, is the first time in Scripture, that the Cross of Christ is revealed.
Just as the Lord carried the wood of the Cross to Golgotha, Isaac carried the wood of his sacrifice upon his back. Isaac was obedient to the will of his father. He did not run or depart from him. He, as well as Abraham, accepted what God asked of them and were willing to carry out any task, even unto the loss of life, in order to act upon His divine will.
We’ve never known if the knife trembled in Abraham’s hand. Abraham does not understand why this sacrifice is demanded of him. Nevertheless, he obeys in an absolute gesture of faith. Just as Christ accepted the will of His Father, and allowed Himself to be placed on the Cross for the salvation of humankind.
On Saturday, we will contemplate the Wood of the Cross. We will celebrate life-everlasting which flows from the Cross, and we will lament the violence and heinousness of this callous devise.
The salvation of Isaac prefigures the Passion and Resurrection of Christ and all humankind. Abraham offered his son, and God provided a ram in his place. God gave His Son, so that we may not parish and die an eternity’s death.
Join us, Saturday, September 14th for the Orthros at 8:00 am and the Divine Liturgy at 9:00 am for the Feast of the Cross. Give thanks to God that as He revealed the Cross in the Old Testament. His plan all along, was to redeem us from the curse that we placed upon ourselves. Jesus paid the price for our sins upon the Cross. We tenderly love our Lord for the sacrifice of His Son.
With Love in Christ,
Not Every Quiet Man is Humble, but Every Humble Man is Quiet.St. Isaac the Syrian
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Actually, this message is mostly intended for my Dear “Brothers” in Christ. But Ladies, feel free to read on as well…
Less than a week ago, very quietly and unceremoniously, our parish reached a significant milestone, in that we came upon our Fifth Anniversary. On August 31, 2014, Fr. Jimi Foreso (of blessed memory) celebrated our newly-created Mission’s first Divine Liturgy at the Woods on Ninth Reception Center in Murray, Utah. What began as a hopeful dream, a prayerful desire, a spiritual cause, a healing measure, an unhindered work of the Spirit, and an answer to God’s calling has come to be known as our home. Our parish. Our church.
I’ve written it numerous times, and I’ve said it just as often: praise be to God for the bravery, foresight, faith, trust and vision of our founding families. The Lord has blessed you. And all of us who have come after your initial and commencing efforts, have been blessed by the work of your hands, hearts, souls and minds. I thank you and I bless you.
Then, just as quietly, I celebrated a bit of an anniversary, myself. One year and one day after the founding of our parish, I showed up with my family, looking forward to rolling our sleeves and joining you in the effort of serving and growing this God-protected parish. In my four years in service to St. Anna’s, I have witnessed remarkable miracles that have taken place. Doors seem to keep opening for us, unto the glory of God and for the benefit of His children. I have marveled at the work of many individuals who continuously take up the mantle of responsibility and exhibit the traits of sincere servant-leaders.
Our founders, and those who continue their work and legacy, after half a decade, still pull in the same direction and labor for the sake of the Kingdom. We are one in purpose, consistent in our message, true to our love of the Lord and His precious Orthodox Church. You have demonstrated this for the past five years. I have experienced this for the last four years. The elderly, our youth and everyone in between have prayerfully willed our existence into being. Through God’s grace, our prayers have been answered. In His mercy, we hope He will continue to listen, respond, direct and inspire us.
No doubt, if there has been a single group or official “ministry” that has embraced all of these platitudes with enthusiasm and systematic skill, it is our Women’s Ministry Team. The ladies of St. Anna’s are focused, generous, faithful and committed to the well-being of our community. Our Matron Saint Anna is the inspiration behind their continued, sacrificial acts. Thank you, ladies for the work you perform on our behalf and for the generous contributions you have made to our greater community & beyond.
Now, gentlemen, its time to continue our efforts to step it up and emulate the fervor of our wives, mothers, sisters and aunts.
Seriously, guys. it’s time. We’ve come close. We’ve shown flashes of brilliance. We’ve started. Now is the time to commit whole-heartedly. Our Women’s Ministry Team has shown no signs of slowing down. Now is the time for us to show signs of speeding up.
I have attached a flyer to this week’s message that is an invitation to all St. Anna men to join us for our Second Annual End of Summer Get Together. Our Men’s Ministry chairmen, Phill Floor and Joe Varanakis are inviting us to learn how we can serve our parish and our God as we enter into our new building. There is work to be done. Not just construction work or handy work, but God’s work. It is my prayerful hope that we will set our sights on the needs of our people, before the needs of our facilities.
We strive for the acquiring of a building not for its own sake, but so that we can have a place that will physically enable us to put our worship into action.
Men, this is your call to be people of action.
Next Sunday, September 15th, the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we will gather together as Orthodox Christian men; men of prayer, men of action, men of St. Anna’s.
Please join us. Read the flyer, pray about how you see yourself in service to your community, and come with a lion’s heart; dedicated to God’s glory and witness in this world.
With Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas
May His Memory be Eternal.Last Sunday, we prayed the Three-Year Memorial of Fr. Matthew Gilbert. This Saturday, September 7th at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Price, Utah, the Very Rev. Chrysostom Gilbert will celebrate the Divine Liturgy at 10:00 am, followed by a Memorial Service in honor of his father on the anniversary of his passing. If you are unable to join Fr. Gilbert in person, please join him in prayer. Please lift up His servant, Matthew the priest, and pray for the comfort of Presbytera Denise and her children.
Please remember that Sunday School begins this Sunday. Realizing that it is also the weekend of the Salt Lake Greek Festival, I pray and trust that our Festival participation will take place after the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and the Blessing of our New School Year. God, first. Spiritual Education, second. Souvlaki, third.