Pastoral Letter April 29, 2018

“Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.”

– Psalm 119:54

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

Christ is Risen!

Truly He is Risen!

If you were new to the St. Anna community and visited our parish for the first time, you might pick up one of the black Welcome Packets that await you in the Narthex. These folders are designed for people who are either new to Orthodoxy or have rediscovered their Faith and returned to church after a long hiatus. Filled with information about our specific parish and doctrinal truths about our ancient faith, we have worked hard to provide our “guests” with all they’ll need in order to begin their new or revitalized walk with Christ. The Packet’s cover letter reads as follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I would like to take this special opportunity to welcome you to the St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. Your presence with us today has enriched our worship experience and your prayers accompany the faithful voices of those gathered in this holy place. We have come together on this day to glorify God, praise His holy Name and to witness His loving mercy. Thank you for being with us!

Your visit to our parish, no matter the purpose, represents a prayerful action no less significant than a spiritual pilgrimage. When we make movements towards God and His house of worship, we enter into union with the saints, and Christ Himself. Standing in this church, at this very moment, you are in the company of sacredness as well as sinners, who are working for their own salvation. And now that you’re here with us, you’ve reached the comfortable delight of safe harbor.

Though our mission setting may be considered modest in terms of the grand and doctrinal traditions of Orthodox Christian architecture, the spiritual, visual, artistic and musical elements of this church and worship serve in every capacity. Our parish is committed to the command that all pilgrims reach their ultimate destination, that is, the Kingdom of God. And at St. Anna’s, indeed it is found; vibrant, actualized, and present in the world today, here beneath the glorious mountains of the Wasatch Range.

If today’s service was your first exposure to Orthodox worship, I can only imagine the questions and observations you may have, and I invite you to discuss them with us. If you are returning after a lengthy hiatus from church, welcome home. If you find yourself on a journey to celebrating your life in Christ through the Sacramental Life of His precious Orthodox Church, we are here to guide and instruct you along the way. Once again welcome to our parish! Through the intersessions of our Matron Saint, the Mother of the Theotokos (of the Virgin Mary), I remain

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas,

Pastor

I crafted this welcome letter around the concept of a pilgrimage – a spiritual journey which is fulfilled in its destination, as it inspires through the process. In other words, reaching the end of the pilgrimage is only half of the benefit. The journey itself is equally rewarding. The Christian life is an engaged, active and continued pilgrimage. As we enter the church, we begin a pilgrimage. As we begin a fasting period and move towards a festal celebration, we begin a pilgrimage. As we approach the Chalice, we begin a pilgrimage. As we are baptized, ordained, married, confess…we set in motion, the events that will unfold within the context of our…you guessed it…pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage is movement with a purpose.

Pilgrimage is action that is sanctified.

Pilgrimage is divinely inspired and heavenly directed.

Pilgrimage is the blessed entanglement of faith and footsteps; sacrifice and reward; heaven and earth.

I ask that you all pray for our parishioners and friends who will be departing for our Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to Asia Minor. We leave on May 1st and return on May 16th. We will spend two weeks venerating the sites, shrines, monasteries, churches, gardens and cathedrals of our Christian history. From Constantinople to Jerusalem to Cappadocia, we will take with us, through prayer and good will, the people of St. Anna’s and our participating sister parishes.

Most notably, we will pray for you as we celebrate the Divine Liturgy upon the Tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we will share the blessings we receive from His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome. Often, we will think of our friends and family who remain, while we ask for your cherished prayers for our health, safety and return without incident.

Please be mindful that all of us associated with our parish will be on this sacred journey to our historical past, actualized present and salvific future. For those of you who planned on participating but for a myriad of reasons, it did not happen, know that you are all, especially, with us every step of the way. And if God so ordains, we will do this again, perhaps in five years or so.

A pilgrimage can take you around the world, it can be accomplished up the aisle of a church, it can even be taken within our hearts and minds; having never physically departed from our home. The point is, we are a people on a pilgrimage. We are in constant motion and our motion propels us towards a higher union with God.

Union with God. The entire point of absolutely any pilgrimage.

With Love in our Risen Lord,

Fr. Anthony

While I’m away on the Sundays of May 6th and 13th (Happy Mother’s Day) we welcome back our dear, Fr. Ambrose. Welcome Home, Father!