Pastoral Letter December 23, 2018

There is nothing better than peace in Christ, for it brings victory over all the evil spirits on earth and in the air. When peace dwells in a man’s heart it enables him to contemplate the grace of the Holy Spirit from within. He who dwells in peace collects spiritual gifts as it were with a scoop, and he sheds the light of knowledge on others. All our thoughts, all our desires, all our efforts, and all our actions should make us say constantly with the Church: “O Lord, give us peace!” When a man lives in peace, God reveals mysteries to him.

St. Seraphim of Sarov

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Born!

Glorify Him!

Last night, following a day marked by our daughter’s ankle surgery (all went well, thank God), I had the blessing to visit a family that is not unable to frequently attend services because of a few circumstances. Their home was warm, cozy, festive, joyful and beautifully decorated for Christmas. Like a postcard, the fireplace was lit, softly-glowing and warming the space. Next to it, stood the Christmas tree, decorated with a delightful combination of religious, holiday and family-made ornaments. And of course, under the tree were several, beautifully and attentively wrapped gifts.

St. Seraphim of Sarov reminds us that the one gift that we need, we should want, we should give, and we must celebrate is the gift of “peace in Christ.” Is there any greater source of true peace in the world than the God who loves, promotes, demonstrates and bestows peace? Of course, there are innumerable ways in which He gives us the gift of peace; freely to world in desperate need.

This note serves as an invitation to be with us this Sunday for the Divine Liturgy, and many other demonstrations of the Lord’s peace; gifted and presented to His faithful. The gifts that will be unwrapped from under His spiritual tree are as follows:

This Sunday, we will unwrap the Gift of Christ’s Peace through Eucharistic Celebration.

The Divine Liturgy, the preeminent Divine Service of the Church fills us with the Word of God, bestows upon us the bloodless sacrifice of Communion, invites to fellowship in His Name and fortifies our spiritual walk as we engage in proper worship, joyful adoration and faithful witness. Be with us this Sunday, as in every Sunday, we celebrate the bountiful banquet which abundantly flows from the Altar.

This Sunday, we will unwrap the Gift of Christ’s Peace through the Love of Family.

Many times, you have participated in the 40-Day Blessing of children within our St. Anna parish, as babies, moms, dads and siblings gather, within the context of the Divine Liturgy to welcome the new family back to church, and specifically, to introduce a life of faith to the new infant. This Sunday, we will celebrate such an occasion, with the added blessing of Prayers for the Adoption of a Child. Counted among the most beautifully written and significantly powerful prayer offerings of the Orthodox Church, adoption prayers speak to the heart of each and every one of us, as we are all, ALL, the adopted sons and daughters of the Father, who sacrificed His only Son for the salvation of, said, adopted sons and daughters. It’s a lovely, little service; a lovely gift.

This Sunday, we will unwrap the Gift of Christ’s Peace through the Promise of Eternal Life.

Death and separation from this world is painful and incredibly difficult to endure. The loss of a loved one can challenge our faith, enslave us in crisis, and test every Truth that has been presented to us from our youth. Through pastoral love and an understanding of the human condition, the Church offers continual reminders, through scheduled Memorial Services, that Christ’s victory over death is an eternal promise. It is hope, grounded in assurance. It is the convergence of God’s creativity, love, long suffering and action, resulting in the salvation of human kind. This Sunday, there is a Memorial for beloved parents. Memory Eternal.

This Sunday, we will unwrap the Gift of Christ’s Peace through Participation in His Ministries.

Proper Christian Stewardship is the acknowledgement that everything is a gift from God. And that our deliberate involvement in supporting, perpetuating and multiplying His blessings, through our contributions of time, talent and treasure, allows us to be co-ministers with Christ. he On Sunday, the Stewardship Pledges of the St. Anna faithful will be lifted high above the Altar and blessed, as were the sacrificial offerings of past occurrences, documented for us in Scripture. Please remember to bring your 2019 Pledge Card so that it can be included in our prayer.

This Sunday, we will unwrap the Gift of Christ’s Peace through Gift of His Incarnation.

Capping off all of these other events on Sunday (don’t be frightened away, they are all very brief) will be the Sunday School’s Christmas Program, accounting for us the events of the Birth of Christ. The one, true, absolute, complete, pure and perfect gift of peace. Enjoy the Holiday narrative as presented by our little ones and celebrate the joy that has come into the world through the Word taking on Flesh.

To be sure, there are allot…ALLOT of things taking place this Sunday; apart from the Liturgy itself, each ancillary blessing or program is lovelier than the last or previous event. Come and unwrap these gifts. Glorify God that He has presented them to us and go home more enriched, having received a myriad of blessings from numerous fronts, though they flow from a unified Source.

Once all of the Blessings of this Sunday sink in, then refer to the Holiday Schedule…to see how the gifts just keep on coming!

With Much Love in our Sacrificial Lord,

Fr. Anthony