Pastoral Letter July 7, 2019

Let us pray to the Lord. Almighty God and Creator, You are the Father of all people on the earth. Guide, I pray, all the nations and their leaders in the ways of justice and peace. Protect us from the evils of injustice, prejudice, exploitation, conflict and war. Help us to put away mistrust, bitterness and hatred. Teach us to cease the storing and using of implements of war. Lead us to find peace, respect and freedom. Unite us in the making and sharing of tools of peace against ignorance, poverty, disease and oppression. Grant that we may grow in harmony and friendship as brothers and sisters created in Your image. These things we ask In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Now and Forever and unto the ages of ages, amen.

An Orthodox Christian Prayer for Peace

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Happy Independence Day for our most blessed United States of America!

As many of you may know, I just returned, along with 14 other people attached to our parish from a Home Building Mission Trip to Project Mexico. We planned out trip with the good people of the Church of the Resurrection in Castro Valley, CA, and we were subsequently paired with them on the building sight.

Over all, there were just over one hundred builders last week and we completed, by God’s grace, four homes for four deserving families. Each of us started with an uneven building sight.

On Day One: we leveled the ground. Created a framework for the pad, hand mixed 35 batches of concrete and smoothed out the surface of the foundation.

On Day Two: we erected the prefabricated metal walls. We attached the roof, bolted the walls to the foundation and wrapped the entire structure in tarpaper and chicken wire.

On Day Three: We hand mixed and applied the first coat of stucco, attached the ceiling boards and installed the windows and front door.

On Day Four: We hand mixed and applied the second coat of stucco, applied the flashing and drip guards to the eves of the house and roof, painted the exterior (orange, per the home-owner’s choice), blessed the home and presented the family with the very first key to their very first front door.

The week we spent in Mexico was filled with prayer, hymns, fellowship, exhaustion, bugs, love, and mutual respect for the people that live south of our border. Ours was a mission of peace and dignity. I believe that our mission was accomplished.

Our plane touched down in Salt Lake City just last night. We were all happy to be back for the Fourth of July. On more than one occasion, I have been out of the country on Independence Day. It is a surreal feeling to be sure, walking the streets of Greece, Guatemala of France, seeing the world go by without a care or thought of our independence from the Crown. No banners, no red, white and blue, no fireworks.

For me, it was important to be home today. I did not want to spend another 4th of July under the shadow of the flag of a different nation. Why? Because of the immense gratitude I feel for our country. I am thankful for grandparents who sought out a better life for me, well before they ever knew me.

I am thankful for a nation that would allow us the opportunity to worship God in our way, identify Him through our traditions and seek Him out through our doctrine. Orthodoxy came to America from many other lands. Yet, together with the creeds and confessions of all other people, we stand in our houses of worship and give glory to God, respecting the right to believe that others’ also hold dear.

On our trip, we saw immense poverty. We didn’t just see it from the window of a passing van. We entered into it. We worked to combat it. We fought it head on and wrestled with its realities.

But upon the faces of the impoverished, was joy and radiant light. You would not believe the dignity and grace of the single mother who now occupies the house we built. Almost every day, she was present on the building sight with her two, young daughters. She held her head high and smiled and looked everyone directly in the eye.

She was happy.

The guy that almost crashed into me on his bike was happy. The people driving by our building sight were happy. The father of the new occupant was proud, and grateful, and helpful and happy.

Indeed, there is much in the news today about the people who are literally dying, attempting to escape that poverty, and find security across our boarder. We encountered people who are proud of their nation, proud of what little they own, thankful for our attachment to their lives and humble before God in permitting all this to happen.

Mexico, in large part, is a poor country. Ours is a rich and powerful country. Today, we give thanks for our Nation from its very inception. Thirteen small colonies gave rise to all we enjoy. And there is much, much, much that we enjoy.

So today, on our Day of Independence, I offer up the above prayer because it is a prayer for peace. We have treasure, we have security, we have ingenuity, we have might, we have prominence. But very seriously, we need peace. We need peace at home and we need peace abroad.

God Bless America.
God Bless Us All.

With Grateful Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas