Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter July 10, 2016

“Refuse to listen to the devil when he whispers to you: give me now, and you will give tomorrow to God. No, no! Spend all the hours of your life in a way pleasing to God; keep in your mind the thought that after the present hour you will not be given another and that you will have to render a strict account for every minute of this present hour.”
– Unseen Warfare: The Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise
(Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain)

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

For the past 17 years, Fr. Matthew has taught the area Greek Orthodox faithful, primarily through a ministry of love and commitment. This humble man of God shown most brilliantly (though his gifts are deep and varied) as he sat at the bedside of those who were anguished, sick or dying. Fr. Matthew’s visits to the sick were never fleeting, obligatory or casual. He encountered Christ in the person of those who profoundly suffer. And today, at this hour, Fr. Matthew’s family finds him not in support of the seriously ill, but lying in that bed itself.

For only the past few days, the news of Fr. Matthew’s challenges with cancer are really penetrating the core of those who love him and who have been served admirably through his priesthood. As I said after the Divine Liturgy last Sunday, there are few members of our parish who have not received blessings, prayers, support, guidance or the Sacraments from Fr. Matthew. Earlier this week, many people received the following email from Kristen Bruskas, Presbytera Denise’s sister, and a close, personal friend. Please read her words, and learn directly from Fr. Matthew’s family how they are asking for our participation in praying for Fr. Matthew:

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you all for your love, concern and prayers for my brother-in-law, Father Matthew Gilbert. He and my sister Denise are with me in Phoenix where I am helping them navigate the world of oncology.

We have started a Caring Bridge site to keep you updated on Father Matthew’s progress, and also to provide a way for you to send messages to the family. They are so appreciative of everyone’s phone calls, texts and emails, and it is hard to find time for them to respond. This Caring Bridge site is a quick and efficient way for the family to be uplifted by your thoughts and prayers. Please fee free to pass this information along to others….the more that know and join us in prayer, the better!

For those of you in the Phoenix area, we will have a Paraklesis Service on Monday, July 11 at 6:00 p.m. at Holy Trinity Cathedral to pray for Father Matthew’s health. We would love to see as many of you as possible.

To access the Caring Bridge site, you will need to create a free log-in with your email address, but I can tell you from personal experience, they do not add you to any other lists or fill up your in-box with advertisements.

Many thanks again for your prayers, love and support!


With Kristen’s message (and beyond) taken to heart, I implore the kind, generous and faithful parishioners of St. Anna’s to help Fr. Matthew and his family in the following ways:

  1. Please establish your connection to Fr. Matthew’s Caring Bridge Site and leave your messages of prayer, support, friendship and gratitude. He has been there for you. We will be there for him.
  2. Just as the faithful surrounding Fr. Matthew in Phoenix will gather this coming Monday evening to chant the Paraklesis Service in supplication for his health, comfort and well-being, we will also have a Paraklesis service on Monday, July 11th at 7:00 pm here at St. Anna’s. And just as Kristen suggested concerning the service in Phoenix, we would love to see as many of you as possible. With Arizona currently on Pacific Time, our parishes will be praying together in support of Fr. Matthew, and asking the Theotokos to encourage her Son for a miracle of healing.
  3. Though it was not requested in her email, or through any other message, I am also asking that you consider financial assistance for this family as they face sudden and mounting challenges. Fr. Matthew and Presbytera Denise will be made aware of anyone who contributes to the St. Anna Benevolence Fund in their honor. Think of the countless hours he spent in the rooms and corridors of our area hospitals and nursing facilities, serving with love and humility. And the Sacraments, Liturgies and homilies he prepared with care and dedication. Praising God for the comfort He rains down upon us through His priests, let us give thanks to Him now, acting with love and generosity, to our suffering brother and father in Christ.

These words are not easy to write. This topic is hard to comprehend, as a young family faces challenges of this incredible magnitude. But Fr. Matthew told me last week that he will not fall apart, as he faces what others have experienced throughout his years as a priest. He said “If I do, then my ministry was a lie.” He is faithful. He is prepared. He is obedient. Fr. Matthew continues to teach and inspire. Let us show him and his family, that we are still willing to learn. I remain,

With Love in our Merciful Lord,

Fr. Anthony

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter July 3, 2016

“If he was not God and man, our salvation is a lie, and the words of the Prophets are lies. But the Prophets spoke the truth, and their testimonies were not lies.
The Holy Spirit spoke through them what they had been commanded.” – St. Ephrem the Syrian

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we are blessed to come ever closer to our Nation’s celebration of Independence, I call to mind that which our American forefathers fought so bravely to establish, and declared so eloquently to protect – freedom. And as Orthodox Christians, we cannot possibly contemplate the notion of freedom outside of its purest expression, that is the freedom which God graciously bestows upon His creation.

Our freedom expelled us from the Garden, but through Christ, it is our very freedom which invites us back in. Christ is the Author of our freedom. As the perfect man, he exercised His free will to remain obedient to the will of the Father. As perfect God, He grants us the ability, also through the voluntary act of obedience, to find the Kingdom, having been restored to us through His death and resurrection.

Pure freedom is a gift from Jesus Christ as God and Man. Permit me to share the thoughts of St. Isaac the Syrian on this very concept:

The facts themselves bear witness and his divine acts of power teach those who doubt that he is true God, and his sufferings show that he is true man.

If he was not flesh, why was Mary introduced at all? And if he was not God, whom was Gabriel calling Lord?

If he was not flesh, who was lying in the manger? And if he was not God, whom did the Angels come down and glorify?

If he was not flesh, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes? And if he was not God, whom did the shepherds worship?

If he was not flesh, whom did Joseph circumcise? And if he was not God, in whose honour did the star speed through the heavens?

If he was not flesh, whom did Mary suckle? And if he was not God, to whom did the Magi offer gifts?

If he was not flesh, whom did Symeon carry in his arms? And if he was not God, to whom did he say, “Let me depart in peace”?

If he was not flesh, whom did Joseph take and flee into Egypt? And if he was not God, in whom were words “Out of Egypt I have called my Son” fulfilled?

If he was not flesh, whom did John baptize? And if he was not God, to whom did the Father from heaven say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased”?

If he was not flesh, who fasted and hungered in the desert? And if he was not God, whom did the Angels come down and serve?

If he was not flesh, who was invited to the wedding in Cana of Galilee? And if he was not God, who turned the water into wine?

If he was not flesh, in whose hands were the loaves? And if he was not God, who satisfied crowds and thousands in the desert, not counting women and children, from five loaves and two fishes?

If he was not flesh, who fell asleep in the boat? And if he was not God, who rebuked the winds and the sea?

If he was not flesh, with whom did Simon the Pharisee eat? And if he was not God, who pardoned the offences of the sinful woman?

If he was not flesh, who sat by the well, worn out by the journey? And if he was not God, who gave living water to the woman of Samaria and reprehended her because she had had five husbands?

If he was not flesh, who wore human garments? And if he was not God, who did acts of power and wonders?

If he was not flesh, who spat on the ground and made clay? And if he was not God, who through the clay compelled the eyes to see?

If he was not flesh, who wept at Lazarus’ grave? And if he was not God, who by his command brought out one four days dead?

If he was not flesh, who sat on the foal? And if he was not God, whom did the crowds go out to meet with glory?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Jews arrest? And if he was not God, who gave an order to the earth and threw them onto their faces.

If he was not flesh, who was struck with a blow? And if he was not God, who cured the ear that had been cut off by Peter and restored it to its place?

If he was not flesh, who received spittings on his face? And if he was not God, who breathed the Holy Spirit into the faces of his Apostles?

If he was not flesh, who stood before Pilate at the judgement seat? And if he was not God, who made Pilate’s wife afraid by a dream?

If he was not flesh, whose garments did the soldiers strip off and divide? And if he was not God, how was the sun darkened at the cross?

If he was not flesh, who was hung on the cross? And if he was not God, who shook the earth from its foundations?

If he was not flesh, whose hands and feet were transfixed by nails? And if he was not God, how was the veil of the temple rent, the rocks broken and the graves opened?

If he was not flesh, who cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me”? And if he was not God, who said “Father, forgive them”?

If he was not flesh, who was hung on a cross with the thieves? And if he was not God, how did he say to the thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”?

If he was not flesh, to whom did they offer vinegar and gall? And if he was not God, on hearing whose voice did Hades tremble?

If he was not flesh, whose side did the lance pierce, and blood and water came out?And if he was not God, who smashed to gates of Hades and tear apart it bonds? And at whose command did the imprisoned dead come out?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Apostles see in the upper room? And if he was not God, how did he enter when the doors were shut?

If he was not flesh, the marks of the nails and the lance in whose hands and side did Thomas handle? And if he was not God, to whom did he cry out, “My Lord and my God”?

If he was not flesh, who ate by the sea of Tiberias? And if he was not God, at whose command was the net filled?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Apostles and Angels see being taken up into heaven? And if he was not God, to whom was heaven opened, whom did the Powers worship in fear and whom did the Father invite to “Sit at my right hand”. As David said, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, etc.”

If he was not God and man, our salvation is a lie, and the words of the Prophets are lies. But the Prophets spoke the truth, and their testimonies were not lies. The Holy Spirit spoke through them what they had been commanded.

Christ; Perfect Man and Perfect God is our declaration of independence from sin and death.

God bless your families, our Church and this great Nation as we celebrate freedom.

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter June 26, 2016

“It is true that one may know man’s ultimate goal, that is to have communion with God. And one may describe the path towards this goal: faith and walking in the commandments
with the aid of Divine Grace. One need only to say in addition: ‘Here is the path – start walking!’” – St. Theophan the Recluse

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As many of you know, I was absent from the church office last week, as I participated in our Metropolis Camp Emmanuel. Our summer camp is one of the most dynamic and reputable summer camping programs in the Archdiocese. The last time I helped out at Camp Emmanuel was in 2004, the year before we moved to the Metropolis of San Francisco. So much had changed in that span of 12 years. But so much was comfortably familiar.

The spiritual and social benefits of our young people participating in such programs are obvious: our children are grounded in the faith, they are exposed to the Scriptures, their fellowship and relationships revolve around like-minded kids, the teachings of the Church and the Bible come alive in practical ways, they are positively influenced by clergy from throughout the entire Metropolis and they come back with an eager commitment to living their lives for Christ.

But I must tell you, that as one of 15 clergymen (yes, twelve priests & three deacons!) who spent a week at Camp Emmanuel, I believe that I came back with the same renewed enthusiasm and fortified commitment as our children! It is equally true that we learn much more from them as they do from us. Their struggles become our struggles and their joys are ours as well. As the kids let their every-day lives and distractions concede to matters of spiritual health and Orthodox Christian principles, I found myself reaping the same benefits.

As a priest serving on staff at Camp Emmanuel, it’s not like we maintain a vague spiritual presence; wandering around looking “holy.” Each day, we lead two Orthodox Life sessions, conduct a Daily Word Bible Study, lead evening Cabin Devotionals, and are available for Confessions twice a day. One of the hallmarks of Camp Emmanuel is, in fact, clergy presence. Ours is the only Metropolis Camp which attracts so many priests to participate.

Being able to spend a week interacting with my brother priests and deacons from the Denver Metropolis was so incredibly refreshing. I had almost forgotten how valuable that time can be. Clergy Laity Meetings are filled with meetings and Clergy Retreats are filled with lectures and seminars. Camp is unique.

Camp is filled with ministry.

Camp is filled with growth and excitement.

Camp is filled with Christ.

I pray that as our Spirit-filled community of St. Anna Greek Orthodox grows and prospers for the sake of the Kingdom, we will continue an atmosphere that is positive for our young people; a place where they can always discover Christ in the ministries, Sacraments, programs and fellowship. But parish interaction, that is the local church, is only one aspect of our children’s exposure to the entirety of the Orthodox world.

As our kids meet other young, Greek Orthodox Christians from places like Kansas City, Houston, Cheyanne and Denver, they see the faith through a broader spectrum, beyond the identity of their home parish. They interact against the backdrop of common belief, sacred prayer and within the Communion of faithful. I hope that every parent will begin to appreciate the unduplicated experience that our Summer Camp has to offer.

There are countless stories about kids who went but didn’t want to go. All of these stories end the same way; the kids who didn’t want to come – didn’t want to leave either. Transformation takes place before our very eyes through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the laughter of the children and the joy of expressing and living one’s Orthodox Faith.

I experienced all of this first hand, plus the benefit of bouncing ideas off of fellow priests, reuniting with old friends, and meeting new ones. I saw young teenagers whom I baptized as infants, and counselors who were my JOY kids and GOYANs. Time passes, but Faith progresses. People grow and change, but Christ remains consistent.

Of course, as I mentioned in my homily last Sunday, the Sunday of Pentecost, we can’t remain at Summer Camp perpetually. At some point, we return to the distractions, the temptations, the complications and the practice of daily living. Just as the disciples were thrust from their familiar confines, then spread throughout the world, we depart from Camp; enlightened, strengthened, fortified and enthused.

I was grateful for the opportunity to be with our St. Anna children, and all of the youth assembled from throughout the Mountain West for the Junior Week of Camp Emmanuel. While there, I spent hours upon hours teaching. But to be sure, I spent days upon days learning.
I remain,

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter June 12, 2016

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

It’s that time of year, when schools are out, vacations are taking place, and our weekend hours become all the more precious. There are many reasons not to come to church on Sundays.

To be helpful, and to alleviate any pangs of guilt you may be feeling, I thought I should give you some more reasons. Though this list is not necessarily exhaustive, and I’m borrowing much of the concept from other sources, let’s make it easier for you to enjoy your Sunday mornings:


  1. The Church is not Air Conditioned
  2. False! While some churches may be sweltering during the summer months, that is not the case for us! In fact, we can make the sanctuary so cold, that you’ll need to wear a sweater and bring a jacket. Remember, I am wearing several layers of vestments while serving in the altar, so I actually prefer the church to feel like a wintery wonderland. Will that help us fill the church during the summer? Making it feel like December? Brrrr.

  3. We Have a Boat
  4. Of course you do! Every other person who lives along the Wasatch Front does. Boats are great – Jesus spent a lot of time on boats since His Disciples were mostly fishermen. He preached from them, calmed storms in them, and walked on water towards them. Attend the Divine Liturgy this summer before launching your boat and I guarantee you’ll hear at least one reference to boats and/or water.

  5. The Lawn Needs Mowing
  6. And the flower beds need planting and the vegetable gardens need weeding and the fence needs painting and…and…and! There will always be chores to do around the house – both inside and out. But don’t neglect being in the Lord’s house as you attend to your own. Christ, Himself did allot of planting, harvesting, cultivating and pruning. But He did it for our spiritual benefit, not to our detriment. Put down the edger and come to Liturgy!

  7. The Kids Have Games
  8. Since moving back to Utah, we have experienced much less of this annoying occurrence in sports, but it still happens. I remember attending a club (comp) soccer game on a Sunday morning, at 7:00 am; two hours before the Orthros. Of course I was wearing my collar and a black suit since I was leaving directly to celebrate services. A woman wearing a Notre Dame hat asked me, “Father, don’t you have somewhere to be?” So of course I answered. “Sure. Don’t you also have somewhere else to be?” Yes, kids play sports. But we really need to limit their participation on Sundays. We can’t use our children’s athletic schedules as excuses to stay away from church. Who signed them up anyway?!?

  9. There’s Church in the Summer, Even though Pascha was so Late?
  10. Indeed. Every Sunday morning just like the rest of the year. With Fellowship Hour, too!

  11. We’re Away for the Weekend
  12. That’s great – I hope you have a relaxing time. Be sure to take your Sunday Best with you and look up the Orthodox Church, nearest to your destination. It’s always fun to visit other churches and attend the Divine Liturgy in different cities. The similarities are obvious, but spotting the differences can be lots of fun, especially for the kids. If you are planning on visiting another parish this summer, let me know in advance, and I will call that priest and make your introduction. Doing so makes receiving Communion so much easier.

  13. There’s No Sunday School
  14. Perfect! Your kids can remain in church with you for the entire Liturgy. You can spend more time together as a family. Isn’t that better than being all separated on a dirt bike trail or on individual jet skis? Where’s the quality time in that? Besides, this is a wonderful time to have your boys who are entering into 3rd Grade start trying on Altar Boy robes and beginning to learn what to do “back there.” Summer is a non-threatening, easy time to begin Altar Service. Don’t wait for school to begin before allowing your boys to participate. Give them a head start!

  15. I Gave up Summer Church for Lent
  16. Lent is over! And the Apostles Fast is only, like, two days this year (that’s what happens when Pascha is so late.) So…since you won’t be spending the entire month of June watching your friends eat hotdogs and hamburgers at neighborhood barbeques, while you a keep a strict abstinence through the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, you can thank the Lord for this fast-free summer – at church. See you there!

  17. I’d Rather Be Outside
  18. I have an answer for that as well. Everyone can take turns sitting on the left side of the church so you can share opportunities in gazing out of the window. We are uniquely blessed in that most Orthodox Churches do not have windows that offer such views of nature. While attending the Divine Liturgy, at St. Anna’s, you’ll feel as though we are worshiping up Millcreek Canyon; the view is that lovely from our one, east-facing window. Enjoy!

  19. I Have a 9:00 am Tee Time
  20. How perfect for you! This Sunday, June 12th, the Divine Liturgy begins at 7:00 am and is perfectly suited for almost any golf course – public or private. Get your early golfing done this weekend. Consider it our GOYANs gift to you, as we depart for Camp Emmanuel! Please keep our children in your prayers for safe travels and a wonderful camp experience.

I hope you’ve found a good reason in this list to stay away from the Divine Liturgy until after Labor Day. But if not, I look forward to seeing you each Sunday. Summer is for relaxing the body and soul. The Divine Liturgy is for engaging the body and soul. You see, they’re perfectly made for each other!

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter June 5, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!

This coming Thursday, the Feast of our Lord’s Ascension into the Heavens, marks the end of the Paschal Season. This Sunday will be the final opportunity for us to chant together, the clarion hymn which proclaims Jesus Christ risen from the Dead. It will be an honor and a blessing to chant “Christ is Risen” for the final time this season.

The Synaxarion, or Daily Book of Commemorations explains the Feast of the Ascension is such a beautiful and poignant way:

After His Resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for forty days, appearing to His Disciples in various places. He ate, drank and conversed with them, verifying and assuring His Resurrection. On the fortieth day after Pascha, Jesus appeared to His Disciples in Jerusalem. He gave them His last commandment, to go forth and preach in His Name to all the nations. At the same time, He told them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait until they were clothed with the power from on high by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them. Having said this, Jesus led His Disciples to the Mount of Olives. Then He lifted up His hands and blessed them.

And as He was speaking to them with words of fatherly blessing, Jesus departed from them and ascended into Heaven, being received by a shining cloud, indicating His divine majesty. He gradually disappeared from the sight of the Disciples as they gazed at Him. And as they stood thus, two angels in brilliant white robes appeared to them in the form of men and said to them: Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, Who is taken from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven.

In these words is fulfilled and defined the doctrine concerning the Son of God and His Word, in the Confession of Faith. After our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled all His great dispensation for us, He ascended in glory into Heaven, and sat on the right hand of God the Father. His Disciples returned from Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, rejoicing in the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. O Christ our God, Who did ascend in glory, have mercy on us.

We are moving ever closer to Pentecost, and ultimately, later this summer, to the first celebration of our parish Feast, the Dormition, or Falling Asleep of St. Anna on July 25th. May our gracious Lord keep you safely in His tender care as you engage in all of your summer activities. God bless, and for nearly the last time, Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

With Love in our Lord Who is to Rise on the 40th Day,

Fr. Anthony

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter May 29, 2016

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.” – I Corinthians 13: 4-8


Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!

As many of you know, almost a year ago, my family and I moved back to Salt Lake City from Northridge, California, after serving the parish of St. Nicholas. While living in that community for a solid decade, our children learned to equate two things, which most people would never associate or connect: Memorial Day and Greek Dancing.

You see, their annual Greek Festival takes place every year on Memorial Day Weekend. I always marveled at the fact that hundreds of faithful volunteers would give up their long (and well-earned) weekend to opperate their Festival. Tireless, energetic, enthusiastic and loving people come together to support their church, celebrate their heritage and share their culture.

This weekend, I pray for the stamina, well-being and health of many, old friends whose eyes will be filled with the smoke of BBQ grills, or whose hands will be cramped from the wrapping of a million gyros, or whose backs will be strained from three months of baking and three days of serving.

But now that we have returned home, we have the opportunity to reabsorb the meaning and purpose of Memorial Day in an entirely different context. I have to say that the idea of placing flowers on my father’s grave, on that specific day while praying for his blessed and departed soul, is a source of comfort that has been sorely missing in my for many years.

It feels like this is where I should be, where we all should be, on Memorial Day.

This Holiday began in the mid-1860’s as an opportunity to commemorate those who were lost while serving in the American Civil War. Though this was very much a northern-states tradition, our entire Nation began to embrace the custom after World War I, when it had evolved to include all Americans lost in any war. It was an opportunity to thank those who offered up the ultimate sacrifice for the ideals of a free world, and for the protection of our great Nation. Then, of course, it continued in the minds and hearts of each of us to include any member of our families who have passed from this life to the next.

Memorial Day is a day of solemnity, appreciation, longing, hope, loss, but mostly, love.

Of course, love!

In our Orthodox Tradition, we memorialize the dead simply for the fact that we love them. We have hope in our memorial prayers because of God’s love towards us. “The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have drawn you with loving kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3). We stand at the graves of our loved ones, knowing that our physical presence; that is, being close to them, affords us great comfort.

And even though we may always continue to mourn their departure, our hope in the Resurrection, in time, eclipses our sadness and allows us the hope of reunification in the Kingdom. In the span of time, we literally pass from a spiritual darkness to a prayerful light.

God loves the departed, so he preserves them, while bestowing upon them, and us, an eternity of life and glory. We love them so we continue to express our devotion through our visits to the cemetery. The deceased love us, so they continue to pray for our deliverance as they reside ever closer to God, united with Him in spirit while awaiting the General Resurrection and the fulfillment of God’s plan for salvation.

Death is an ugly distortion of our reality. We were created to be perfect, eternal, glorious and joyful. Death robs us of our human dignity and forcibly, albeit temporarily, separates the body from the soul.

On Memorial Day, we draw near to the graves of our erstwhile beloved, but communicate tenderly and intimately with their gentle souls. They hear us. They feel us. They return the favor and offer their supplications unto God in Heaven. We mourn our losses, but, nevertheless, share in the prize.

St. Paul counsels us “not to mourn as those who do not have hope.” He advises us to never despair over the dead, because “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

This coming Monday, Memorial Day, I will be at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm, with the intention of praying for the repose of your dearly departed loved ones who await their full glory in Christ. This is my new, and tenderly-embraced Memorial Day Tradition. This is my new practice for the Day. This is how the Greek Orthodox people of Salt Lake City celebrate the weekend – in committed prayer.

I will cherish this opportunity to stand beside each of you, and offer our Orthodox Trisagion Prayers of hope, mercy, triumph, life, light and…love.

Christ’s love.
Christ’s love Crucified.
Christ’s love Resurrected.

Remaining in that Very Love,

Fr. Anthony


Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter May 22, 2016

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. – I John 3:17-18

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!

Perhaps you saw the pictures of our Women’s Ministry Service Project on Tuesday evening. Each month the ladies of our St. Anna community gather to deliberate the business of their organization, engage in fellowship and plan what good thing that can next be accomplished. This week’s “good thing” was to prepare 500 sandwiches for the homeless and hungry here in the Salt Lake Valley. Yes, 500 sandwiches. Pounds and pounds of ham, cheese, mayonnaise packets, baggies and, if you are counting, 1,000 pieces of bread.

I am so thankful for the willing spirit of the women in our parish. As predicted, more people came to help than typically come for the other meetings. Service projects bring out the best in us, and they bring out the most of us. As we will always strive to be a parish of service, works, action, compassion and caring, Tuesday night was beautiful and special. And the reality is, the actual sandwich-making part of the entire night only took about 20 minutes.

Of course, hours of preparation and the dedication of funds were all executed well before we showed up to nicely-organized work stations with detailed production instructions. For sure, the work of our project chairs, Ann Sasich and Pat Daskalas, went tremendously more deep than our own efforts…but hey, 500 sandwiches were made that night.

And the discussions around the tables were filled with laughter, as well as the prayerful contemplation for the dear souls who would hopefully appreciate the work of our hands. Empathy, Christian love and the camaraderie between Sisters in Christ marked an extremely lovely evening.

But that was then. Though it was a fantastic experience, now it’s time to move on to our NEXT opportunity to help!

I pray that you have been seeing the little flyers in the narthex for the Race2Erase Hunger. This Saturday at 3:00 pm, on the Feast of Ss. Constantine and Helen, we will gather next door to our church at the Brighton Stake Center to celebrate, with our friends of St. Thomas More Parish, the conclusion of our Virtual 5K Race.

For the past several weeks, we have had the opportunity to register for this race, complete it at our own leisure, and allow the proceeds to benefit the Utah Food Bank. If you have yet to register for the Virtual 5K, please go to or visit our Facebook Page. As I said, all proceeds from registration go directly to the Food Bank. Please check the website and Facebook Page to see all of the different ways you can get involved in our efforts to combat continual hunger in the midst of our everyday lives.

Our “After Party” this Saturday will give us the opportunity to do as the ladies of our Women’s Ministry Team do so well; they get together, make new friends, celebrate their lives in Christ and assist people along the way. As we rent space on the campus of St. Thomas More, we are continually in contact with the lovely parishioners of their community.

I feel that it would also be a great expression of unifying behind a common cause, to get to know the folks of the Stake Center, who asked our parish to participate in this worthy effort. We were invited to help them, help the hungry. For that, I am extremely grateful. Being with us on Saturday is a perfect chance to introduce living icons and breathing expressions of Orthodoxy to our neighbors.

You may laugh, we certainly did…when Andrea and I visited our former parish just before moving there almost eleven years ago. It amused us to see that St. Nicholas is literally right next door to the Northridge Mormon Ward. “Welcome home,” we chuckled. Well, the chances of our parish being located next to a Mormon church here in Cottonwood Heights are, let’s say, slightly greater than the odds in Los Angeles.

But I am grateful for our neighbors and the love they display – both here and in California. Let’s get together for our common cause of easing the pangs of hunger in the bellies of local children and families. That’s what is pleasing to God.

As St. John the Apostle reminds us in the forementioned Epistle passage, let us “love in deed and in truth.” Once again, it’s time to help. Let us thank the Lord for the opportunity to serve and exhibit, in very real ways, His compassion and love towards humanity.

With Love in our Risen Lord,

Fr. Anthony

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter May 15, 2016

“But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” – Mark 16:6-7 (From the Paschal Gospel Reading)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Sunday will mark the Second Sunday of Pascha, which is celebrated as the Sunday of the Myrrh Bearing Women, commonly understood to be Mary Magdalene, Mary the Theotokos, Joanna, Salome, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Susanna, Mary of Bethany, and Martha of Bethany. Of course Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are also commemorated on this day.

Of all the figures in the New Testament, there are no other groups of people, or individuals who were more committed to the ministry and person of Jesus Christ. The realities of their bravery and commitment escapes us as we tend to romanticize their role and minimize the dangers involved in carrying out their sacred task.

At the point of our Lord’s Crucifixion, both political and religious tensions had reached an explosive climax. Pilate was one decision away from a riot, the leadership of the Temple had finally come to the place where their paranoia, anger, resentment and jealousy had become literally blood-thirsty, and any follower of Jesus was seen as an enemy to the State and especially to the Jewish community.

Yet, there stood these brave women of extreme love and faith. They had no idea how events would unfold before them; there is no way they could have anticipated the Father’s plan and the Resurrection of Christ. That said, they risked everything in order to care, most tenderly, for the dead body of their beloved Rabbi and Master.

They stumbled around in the dark, risking authorities, soldiers, robbers and wildlife. They could not carry lamps, for fear of detection. They did not have the protection of the disciples, since they were scattered in various places of hiding. Unaccompanied women wandering in the darkness of the wilderness was, to be sure, a recipe for disaster. Or was it an opportunity for unimaginable joy and anticipation? At least it would eventually prove to be.

For their commitment unto the end (even well past the end) the Holy Myrrh Bearers, most especially and notably Mary Magdalene, were afforded the due honor of being the first to proclaim the Resurrection. The reaction of the disciples was not instantly absorbed and accepted by the ranks of the disciples (moreover, some women of our company amazed us…(Luke 24:22)). Their message was too good to be true.

But it was true.

It is Truth incarnate.

So from the time the faithful women departed from Christ’s tomb with the angel’s message of Christ’s instructions, the communication of the Gospel has been at the forefront of our Christian responsibilities. As a parish, our means of effectively communicating our activities, services and ministries is critically important. Like the Myrrh Bearers, we must share, proclaim, inform and inspire.

This is precisely why we want to introduce to you our St. Anna Mobile App! Tomorrow evening, you will receive an email that will link you to the demonstration of our new app. As I announced on the morning of Pascha (hey, like a Myrrh Bearer) we are currently awaiting our licenses through Google and Apple so that our app may be made available through their App Stores.

Until then, play around with the App in its demo mode. You won’t be able to do everything we intend, but you will get the idea. The plan to develop a mobile app for the use and ease of our parishioners was my goal, together with our parish council for quite some time. We figured the best time to release such a project was after we received our parish name.

And with the help of a few individuals, we wasted no time. Leo Davis helped with some technical intricacies, while Michael Petrogeorge maintained a consistent hand on all of our parish communications. I wish to especially thank Georgiann Petrogeorge for heading up this effort with her expertise and enthusiasm. She has dedicated many, many hours to this project. We could not have produced such an amazing product without their efforts.

This useful tool will enable you, the parishioners of St. Anna, to have at a glance and at a touch every form of communication our church has to offer. But please, as you begin to get a feel for our app, let me know what you feel is missing and where we can improve.

A photo library is currently in development and at some point, we will have the opportunity to make donations and pay stewardship directly through the app. Please email me (and you’ll see how easy that can be) with your feedback and suggestions. This is going to be a wonderful tool and it will grow, as we grow. The Myrrh Bearers have a fantastic and life-giving story to tell. And we will continually strive to find creative ways to share it. I remain,

With Love in our Risen Lord,

Fr. Anthony

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter May 8, 2016

“O God-minded Anna, you bore the pure Mother of God, the one who within her conceived the Conceiver of life itself. You were therefore transported to a place now in heaven. Joyful ones all reside there in the home of all gladness, asking for forgiveness for those who honor you, O blessed one.” – Troparion of St. Anna, the Mother of the Theotokos


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!

As we continue to delight in the pure and inexhaustible joy of our Lord’s Resurrection, we have just cause to even more exuberant than usual in that we as a parish have finally received our name, spiritual identity, Matron Saint and intercessor before God. Christ’s own grandmother and the Mother of the Theotokos, the righteous Saint Anna is our champion before throne of God and we are so pleased, enthusiastic and grateful that she has accepted the responsibility of praying for us and guiding our community.

I wish to share with you now, detailed information about both Ss. Joachim and Anna. Their ministry, as the parents of the Panaghia is interconnected for obvious reasons. If we are to understand her life, desires, challenges and blessings, we must also study the path of her faithful husband. Their immediate connection to Christ our Savior is the reason Ss. Joachim and Anna are mentioned at the end of nearly every Orthodox service. Much of what we know about St. Anna comes from the Gospel of St. James. Did you know that St. James wrote a Gospel?

From the earliest years of Christianity, his book was of great value to the faithful of the Church. However, by the time the Gospels were canonized, fanciful additions and overly-pietistic exaggerations were inserted into the original text. These additions serve as the primary reason that The Protoevangelium of James was not included in the New Testament.

Please take the time to read this lovely message about our new Matron Saint Anna. This treatise comes to us from the writings of a dear friend, Rev. Dr. Christopher Flesoras of the St. Anna Church and Shrine in Roseville, CA.

“By their righteous lives Joachim and Anna pleased God so much that He considered them worthy enough to be the parents of the Most Holy Virgin, the most-blessed Mother of the Lord. From only this it is clear that their life was holy, God-pleasing, and pure, for from them was born the Daughter, Holiest of all the saints, pleasing to God more than all the others, and more honorable than the Cherubim. There were on the earth at that time no people more pleasing to God by their pure lives, than Joachim and Anna. Although at the time it was possible to find many living righteously and pleasing to God, these two surpassed all others by their virtues and appeared before God as the most worthy to bear the Mother of God.

Such mercy would not have been granted to them by God, if they did not indeed surpass all others in righteousness and holiness. But since the Lord Himself had to be incarnated of a Most Holy and Most Pure Mother, it was likewise fitting that the Mother of God descend from holy and pure parents. Just as earthly kings have their purples made, not from plain material, but gold-brocaded, so also did the Heavenly King wish to have His Most Pure Mother, in the body of which, as in a royal purple, He was to clothe Himself, born not of ordinary incontinent parents, as of plain material, but of chaste and holy ones, as of gold-brocaded material, the type of which was the Old Testament tabernacle, which God ordered Moses to construct of crimson and scarlet material and of fine linen. (Exodus 27:16) “And for the gate of the court shall be an hanging of twenty cubits, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework: and their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four.”

This tabernacle prefigured the Virgin Mary, taking up His abode in Whom, God came to “live with men”, as it is written: “behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them (Rev. 21:3).” The crimson and scarlet material and the linen from which the tabernacle was made, prefigured the parents of the Mother of God, Who was descended from and born of chastity and continence, as of crimson and scarlet raiment, and of their perfection in the fulfillment of every commandment of God, as of fine linen.

But these holy spouses were, by the will of God, childless for a long time – in order that in the conception and birth of such a daughter would be manifested the power of the grace of God, as well as the honor of the One Born, and the worthiness of the parents: for it is impossible for a barren and aged woman to bear in any other way but by the power of the grace of God; here nature is no longer active, but God Who overcomes the laws of nature and destroys the bonds of barrenness. To be born of barren and aged parents is a great honor to the One Born as well, because She is born not of incontinent parents but of continent and aged ones, such as were Joachim and Anna, who lived fifty years in marriage and had no children. Finally, through such a birth the worthiness of the parents themselves is also revealed, since they, after a long barrenness, gave birth to the joy of all the world, in such a way likened to the patriarch Abraham and his devout wife Sarah, who by the promise of God bore Isaac in old age (Genesis 21:2) “For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.” However, it can be said without doubt that the nativity of the Mother of God was superior to the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah. As much as the Virgin Mary is Herself born above and more worthy of honor than Isaac, so likewise are Joachim and Anna greater and higher in worthiness than Abraham and Sarah.

They did not achieve that virtue all at once but only after they had prayed to God for this with diligent fasting and prayer, in mental sorrow and with grieving hearts: and their grief was turned into joy, while their disgrace appeared as the herald of a great honor, their assiduous petition appeared as a guidance for the receiving of blessings, and their prayer as the best intercession.

Joachim and Anna were sorrowful and wept long over their childlessness. Once, on a great feastday, Joachim was bringing gifts to the Lord God in the temple of Jerusalem; together with Joachim all of the Israelites were also bringing their gifts in offering to God. Issachar, who was the high priest at that time, did not want to accept the offerings of Joachim because he was without children.

“Your gifts,” he said, “must not be accepted because you do not have children, and hence, do not have the blessing of God: most likely you have some secret sins.”

Likewise, a Hebrew from the tribe of Reuben, bringing his gifts together with the others, reproached Joachim, saying:

Why do you want to bring sacrifices to God before Me? Do you not know that you are not worthy to bring gifts together with us, since you know no descent in Israel?”

Yet to the patriarchs of the Israelite nation had repeatedly been given by God the promise of the multiplying of their descendants; therefore, the Israelites regarded a multitudinous posterity as the highest fortune and blessing of God. On the other hand, by the ancient promise of God, the Israelites hoped to find among their descendants the “seed of the woman” promised by God, the Messiah. This is why among the Hebrews childlessness was considered as a terrible misfortune and punishment for sins, and the people who did not have children the Hebrews regarded as great sinners.

These reproaches grieved Joachim very much, and he with great sorrow left the temple of God disgraced and humiliated, and the feastday turned into grief for him, while the festal joy changed into sorrow. Deeply sorrowing, he did not return home, but departed into the desert to the shepherds, tending their flocks, and wept there over his infertility and over the abuses and reproaches made against him. Having remembered Abraham, his forefather, to whom in extreme old age God granted a son, Joachim began diligently praying to the Lord that he also be honored with such benevolence, that He hear his prayer, have mercy on him, and take away from him the abuses of the people, that He grant him in old age the fruit of his marriage, as was done at one time to Abraham.

“May I have,” he prayed, “the possibility of being called the father of a child, and not childless and rejected by God to suffer the reproaches of the people.”

Joachim added a fast to this prayer and for forty days did not partake of bread.

“I will not eat,” he said, “and will not return to my home; let my tears be my nourishment, and the desert my home, until the Lord God of Israel hearkens and takes this defamation away from me”

In the very same way his wife also, being at home and hearing that the high priest, reproaching them for barrenness, did not want to accept their gifts, and that her husband from great sorrow had withdrawn into the desert, wept with inconsolable tears.

“Now,” she said, “I am the most unfortunate of all: rejected by God, reviled among the people, and forsaken by my husband! Over what shall I weep now: over my widowhood, or my childlessness, or my orphanhood, of over the fact that I was not found worthy to be called a mother!”

In this way she wept bitterly all those days.

A servant of Anna, by the name of Judith, tried to comfort her but could not: for who can console one whose grief is as deep as the sea?

Once the sorrowful Anna went into the garden, sat under a laurel tree, sighed from the depth of her heart, and lifting her tear-filled eyes toward heaven, noticed a bird’s nest on the tree with tiny birds in it. This sight imbued her heart with even greater sorrow, and she with weeping began to call out:

“Woe to me who am childless! It is probably because I am the most sinful among all the daughters of Israel, that I am the only one among all the women to be so humbled. All of them carry the fruit of their wombs in their arms; all of them are comforted by their children; I am the only one alien to this joy. Woe is me! The gifts of all are accepted in the temple of God, and for their child-bearing respect is shown to them; I am the only one rejected from the temple of my Lord. Woe is me! With whom can I compare myself? Not with the birds of the sky, not with the animals of the earth; for they too bring their fruit to Thee, Lord God; only I am barren. I cannot compare myself even with the earth; for it vegetates and raises the seeds, and bringing forth fruits, blesses Thee, the Heavenly Father; only I am without fruit on the earth. Alas, for me, Lord, Lord! Only I, a sinner, am deprived of posterity. Thou who once granted a son Isaac to Sarah in deep old age (Genesis 21:1-8):

And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him. And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him. And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age. And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.

Thou Who opened the womb of Hannah, the mother of Thy prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11, 20; 1 Kings 1:11, 20 in Septuagint),

And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head… Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD.

Look upon me today and hear my prayers. Lord Sabaoth! Thou knowest the disgrace of childlessness; put an end to the sorrow of my heart and open my womb and make me who am barren fruit-bearing, so that we may bring the one born of me as a gift to Thee, blessing, lauding, and in accordance glorifying Thy mercy.”

While Anna was exclaiming in this way with weeping and wailing, an angel of the Lord appeared to her and said:

“Anna, Anna! Your prayer has been heard; your sighings have penetrated through to the clouds; your tears have appeared before God; and you shall conceive and bear a most blessed Daughter; through Her all the tribes of the earth shall receive a blessing and to all the world shall be granted salvation; her name shall be Mary.”

Hearing the words of the angel, Anna bowed down to God and said:

“As the Lord God lives, if a child is born to me, I shall offer it for service to God. Let it serve Him and glorify the holy name of God day and night all the time if its life.”

Following this, having been filled with unspeakable joy, the holy Anna quickly went to Jerusalem in order there to give prayerful thanksgiving to God for His merciful visitation.

At the same time the Angel also appeared to Joachim in the desert and said:

“Joachim, Joachim! God has herd your prayer and it well-pleases Him to grant you His grace; your wife Anna shall conceive and bear you a Daughter, the birth of Whom shall be the joy of the entire world. And here is a sign for you that I am announcing the truth to you: go to Jerusalem to the temple of God and there, at the golden gates, you shall find your wife Anna to whom I have announced the same.”

Joachim, surprised by such good news of the angel, doxologizing God and thanking Him with heart and lips for the great mercy, hastily departed with joy and gladness for the temple of Jerusalem. There, just as the Angel had announced to him, he found Anna at the golden gates, praying to God, and he told her of the glad tidings of the angel. She likewise revealed how she had seen and heard an angel, announcing the birth of a daughter to her. Then Joachim and Anna Glorified God Who had done such a great kindness for them, and having worshipped Him in the holy temple, they returned to their home.

And holy Anna conceived on the ninth day of the month of December, while on the eighth of September she gave birth to a Daughter, the Most Pure and Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Beginning and Intercessor of our salvation, over Whose birth both heaven and earth rejoiced. Joachim, on the occasion of Her birth, brought valuable gifts, sacrifices, and burnt offerings to God, and received the blessing of the high priest, the priests, the Levites, and all the people, for having been vouchsafed the blessing of God. He later gave a banquet in his home, and all glorified God with gladness.

The parents took care of the growing Virgin Mary as the apple of their eye, knowing, by the special revelation of God, that She would be a light to all the world and the renewal of human nature. For this reason they brought Her up with such careful circumspection, as was proper for the One Who was to be the Mother of our Savior. They loved Her not only as their daughter as long awaited, but revered Her as their lady, remembering the angelic words concerning Her and foreseeing through the spirit what was to be accomplished through Her. Being filled with divine grace, She mystically enriched Her parents with that grace as well. As the sun illuminates with its rays the heavenly bodies so also the divinely-chosen Mary, like the sun, illuminated Joachim and Anna with the rays of the grace given to Her, so that they too were filled with the Spirit of God, and firmly believed in the fulfillment of the angel’s words.

When the child Mary reached the age of three, Her parents led Her with glory into the temple of the Lord, accompanying Her with lighted lamps, and consecrated Her to the service of God, as they had promised. After the passing of several years following the presentation of May into the temple, holy Joachim died, eighty years from his birth. Holy Anna, having become a widow, left Nazareth and came to Jerusalem, where she stayed with her Most Holy Daughter, praying unceasingly in the temple of God. Having lived in Jerusalem for two years, she reposed in the Lord, 79 years following her birth.

The Church commemorates the passing of the righteous Anna on the 25th of July.”

Mother of the Most Holy Theotokos, Intercede for us!

With Love in our Risen Lord,

Fr. Anthony

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter May 1, 2016

“I gave My back to the scourgings, and turned not away My face from the spittings; I stood before the judgement-seat of Pilate and endured the Cross, for the salvation of the world.”
– Praise Hymn of Holy Friday Matins

My Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

No doubt, by the time this message is sent out to our lovely community, our precious and long-suffering Lord will have been placed upon His Cross. He was dragged through the darkened streets of Jerusalem, placed on trial in the courts of the unjust, beaten, slashed, mocked and spat upon. He was nailed to the wood of the Cross, hoisted high above the earth, for all to gaze upon with horror and disgust, and left suffocating in the heat of the sun, to die the most painful of deaths devised by the cunning spirit of fallen mankind.

He did this for you. He did this for me. He did this for His Father in Heaven. He did this for His All Holy Mother on earth. He did this for the children. He did this for the seniors. He did this for the just and righteous. He did this for the wicked and the evil. He did this so that we may believe. He did this so that we may have hope. He did this for the times we feel isolated and alone. He did this so that we may feel the company of the saints. He did this out of sadness for our falling away from grace. He did this for the joy of salvation. He did this because He loves. He did this because He is love. He did this because we hate. He did this because we sometimes are hate.

He ascended the wood of the Cross because He is obedient to the wishes of the Father. He had to do it, because our willful disobedience forced the hand of God. And instead of a justifiably wrathful response, He turned His cheek, accepted the strikes and the blows from impious men, withstood bloodletting violence, and yielded up His righteous, unblemished and life-giving spirit.

He died on the Cross so that we could enjoy our church. He perished on the barren rock of Golgotha in order to lead His saints with an enduring example of faithfulness and fidelity.

Our church will soon have a name; an identity, a connection, a legacy and a witness. Our soon-to-be-announced Patron Saint chose us. We did not choose him or her. Our Patron Saint has watched over us, guiding our steps, purifying our intentions, sharpening our purpose, fortifying our fellowship, and solidifying our faith – all in an effort to lead us to Christ. The Christ on the Cross. The Christ covered in His own pure blood. The Christ who bore our evils and set us free from the throws of death. The Christ who broke the chains, shattered the locks, and crashed down the bars. Our Patron Saint shares in this victory and urges us to accept and electrify our zeal for the Lord, just as he or she has done.

Though we are more than halfway through Great and Holy Week, the greatest and the holiest is yet to come. I thank you and bless you for your participation thus far. You have turned out to worship and to offer your praises with prayerful enthusiasm and pious love. As the divine services continue to intensify, I pray that our willingness to participate continues its exponential growth. I pray God’s strength to be within you, and I pray His love to shower down upon you.

With Love in the Christ Who Endured All Things,

Fr. Anthony