Pastoral Letter July 31, 2016

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

Not long ago, the parishioners of St. Anna, together with the faithful and clergy of our pan-Orthodox community here in the Salt Lake area stood together, chanting the Paraklesis Service and offering our prayers on behalf of Fr. Matthew Gilbert, his Presbytera and their family. As an update, Fr. Matthew still requires your unwavering prayers and ceaseless entreaties unto the Lord for the ease of his pain and suffering. I pray every day that Fr. Matthew feels the warmth and peace of God’s love, as expressed through the people who hold him dear and feel gratitude and for his fruitful ministry.

That evening, I heard it from more than a few people, how beautiful they found the Paraklesis Service to be. And for many, it actually was their first experience hearing these hymns and prayers. Without question, the hymns are beautiful and the prayers are up-lifting. And while it is true that this remarkable and inspirational service can be prayed at any time, in any location, including hospitals and homes for the benefit of those in the need of physical, spiritual, emotional and inner healing; it is also true that this service has a specific place in the liturgical life of the Church.

Every year, as we prepare for the Dormition of the Theotokos (celebrated on August 15), we build up to this most solemn Festival with a nearly two-week fasting period, which begins on the first day of August. During the Fast, we lift our spirits while contemplating the unique ministry of the Panaghia, and approach her in the hope of salvation, through the mercy of her Son.

We deepen our relationship with her at this time, primarily through our participation in the Paraklesis. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the first two weeks of August, we chant this service. The only exception to this rule is when, such as this year, when the eve of the Transfiguration of Christ (August 6th) falls on one of those evenings. At that time, we celebrate Great Vespers for the Feast.

So come this August, we will gather together multiple times, to chant the same service which brought us together for one, particular family, in the Gilberts (Lord have mercy). We came together in their urgent need and personal struggle. Universally speaking however, we all struggle.

We all bear witness which contradicts God.

We operate with some sort of deficit.

We submit to some form of sin.

We suffer one illness or another.

We live with some degree of brokenness

We barely hover above some degree of sadness.

We fall short by some measure.

We wander from the Lord’s path by some distance.

We disappoint in some capacity

We transgress against brother or sister.

We doubt a truth.

We affirm a lie.

We miss the mark.

The Mark is Christ.

For these reasons, and for countless others, we require the intersessions and influence of the Theotokos. The Paraklesis gives us this very opportunity; to set our requests before her feet, so that in turn, she can carry our prayers, with a mother’s influence, to the long-suffering care of her merciful Son.

I invite you to participate in this Service in the following ways…

Come to the Paraklesis each evening of its celebration to receive the full benefit of blessed repetition.

Write down and submit the names of those whom you wish to be prayed for. Bring them with you to the service and the names will be read aloud through pious tradition. Remember, submit only the names for the living; for this is a service of sanctification, comfort and healing.

Come to the church on the Thursday evenings of the Fast at 7:00 pm to learn how to chant the Parklesis. With greater participation in the beautiful hymns, Panaghia will be most-pleased with our offering of love, and moved by our faith in Christ, Jesus.

The Paraklesis Service expresses her devotion to us, it affirms His mercy, and bands us together as a community of sinners in need of forgiveness and mercy.

As your pastor, I invite you to take this spiritual journey. Discover a new and dynamic form of prayer, or find comfort in the familiar melodies and poetry of the Paraklesis. It is truly my favorite set of services throughout the entire year. Sharing in the love she has for her Son, I remain,

In Christ,

Fr. Anthony