Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the Old Testament Pentecost was the feast which occurred fifty days after Passover. As the Passover feast celebrated the exodus of the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt, so Pentecost celebrated God’s gift of the ten commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.
In the new covenant of the Messiah, the Passover event takes on its new meaning as the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection, the “exodus” of men from this sinful world to the Kingdom of God. And in the New Testament as well, the pentecostal feast is fulfilled and made new by the coming of the “new law,” the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ.
When the day of Pentecost had come they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed as resting upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit . . .Acts 2:1-4
The Holy Spirit that Christ had promised to his disciples came on the day of Pentecost (Jn 14.26, 15.26; Lk 24.49; Acts 1.5). The apostles received “the power from on high,” and they began to preach and bear witness to Jesus as the risen Christ, the King and the Lord. This moment has traditionally been called the birthday of the Church.
In the liturgical services of the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit is celebrated together with the full revelation of the divine Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The fullness of the Godhead is manifested with the Spirit’s coming to man, and the Church hymns celebrate this manifestation as the final act of God’s self-disclosure and self-donation to the world of His creation. For this reason Pentecost Sunday is also called Trinity Day in the Orthodox tradition. Often on this day the icon of the Holy Trinity—particularly that of the three angelic figures who appeared to Abraham, the forefather of the Christian faith—is placed in the center of the church. This icon is used with the traditional pentecostal icon which shows the tongues of fire hovering over Mary and the Twelve Apostles, the original prototype of the Church, who are themselves sitting in unity surrounding a symbolic image of “cosmos,” the world.
On Pentecost we have the final fulfillment of the mission of Jesus Christ and the first beginning of the messianic age of the Kingdom of God mystically present in this world in the Church of the Messiah. For this reason the fiftieth day stands as the beginning of the era which is beyond the limitations of this world, fifty being that number which stands for eternal and heavenly fulfillment in Jewish and Christian mystical piety: seven times seven, plus one.
Thus, Pentecost is called an apocalyptic day, which means the day of final revelation. It is also called an eschatological day, which means the day of the final and perfect end (in Greek eschaton means the end). For when the Messiah comes and the Lord’s Day is at hand, the “last days” are inaugurated in which “God declares: . . . I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”; This is the ancient prophecy to which the Apostle Peter refers in the first sermon of the Christian Church which was preached on the first Sunday of Pentecost (Acts 2: 1 7; Joel 2: 28–32).
Once again it must be noted that the feast of Pentecost is not simply the celebration of an event which took place centuries ago. It is the celebration of what must happen and does happen to us in the Church today. We all have died and risen with the Messiah-King, and we all have received his Most Holy Spirit. We are the “temples of the Holy Spirit.” God’s Spirit dwells in us (Rom 8; 1 Cor 2–3, 12; 2 Cor 3; Gal 5; Eph 2–3). We, by our own membership in the Church, have received “the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” in the sacrament of chrismation. Pentecost has happened to us.
The Divine Liturgy of Pentecost recalls our baptism into Christ with the verse from Galatians again replacing the Thrice-Holy Hymn. Special verses from the psalms also replace the usual antiphonal psalms of the liturgy. The epistle and gospel readings tell of the Spirit’s coming to men. The kontakion sings of the reversal of Babel as God unites the nations into the unity of his Spirit. The troparion proclaims the gathering of the whole universe into God’s net through the work of the inspired apostles. The hymns “O Heavenly King” and “We have seen the True Light” are sung for the first time since Easter, calling the Holy Spirit to “come and abide in us,” and proclaiming that “we have received the heavenly Spirit.” The church building is decorated with flowers and the green leaves of the summer to show that God’s divine Breath comes to renew all creation as the “life-creating Spirit.” In Hebrew the word for Spirit, breath and wind is the same word, “Ruah.”
Blessed are You, O Christ our God, who has revealed the fishermen as most wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit: through them You did draw the world into Your net. O Lover of Man, Glory to You.Apolytikion of Pentecost
When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, he divided the nations. But when he distributed the tongues of fire, he called all to unity. Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-Holy Spirit!Kontakion of Pentecost
The Great Vespers of Pentecost evening features three long prayers at which the faithful kneel for the first time since Easter. The Monday after Pentecost is the feast of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Church, and the Sunday after Pentecost is the feast of All Saints. This is the logical liturgical sequence since the coming of the Holy Spirit is fulfilled in men by their becoming saints, and this is the very purpose of the creation and salvation of the world. “Thus says the Lord: Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I your God am holy” (Lev 11.44–45, 1 Pet 1.15–16). (From OCA)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Just this morning, many ladies from our parish gathered for their annual Women’s Ministry Team Membership Tea. It was a lovely gathering (besides the caterer, I was the only guy there) filled with warmth and grace. From the literal inception of our parish nearly eight years ago, the faithful of our Women’s Ministry Team have been the engine behind every philanthropic, service and outreach of our community. Indeed, there are many ministries dedicated to service within our parish. But inevitably, in some way or another, these efforts will run through the powerful force that is St. Anna Women. Thank God for their strength, vision, inspired purpose and generosity.
One of the items discussed in today’s festive gathering was the idea of expanding, growing, maturing and stretching the boundaries of their philanthropic efforts. It seems the time has come, that we take this home-grown organization, our Women’s Ministry Team (WMT), and attach it to something more expansive and far-reaching. We are taking that next step and have petitioned His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver to establish a Philoptochos Chapter here at St. Anna’s. Our request was granted and he, in turn, has contacted the National Philoptochos Office in New York, that a charter be given to our local parish. What is Philoptochos? Ahh. One of those compound Greek words like:
Philanthropy – to be a friend of humanity
Philadelphia – to be a friend to one’s brother
Philoptochos – to be a friend to the poor.
I’ll now let the Philoptochos leadership themselves describe their organization:
The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society, Inc. is the philanthropic arm of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America that has offered 90 years of philanthropy through a multitude of programs that make a difference in the lives of people in the United States and throughout the world. The Society was established in November 1931, by the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, who was then serving as Archbishop of North and South America.
Philoptochos fulfills its mission to “help the poor, the destitute, the hungry, the aged, the sick, the unemployed, the orphaned, the imprisoned, the widowed, those with disabilities and the victims of disasters through its National and Metropolis Boards and its 26,000 members and more than 400 active chapters, nationwide. Philoptochos responds immediately to needs and crises and its philanthropic outreach extends to each area of the country and throughout the world. In 2019, National Philoptochos distributed $1.7 million in philanthropic aid.
Since the late 1950’s, upon the recommendation of Archbishop Iakovos, Philoptochos has placed an increased emphasis on the implementation of important programs to benefit the Greek Orthodox community, including, but not limited to, institutions of the Church, the philanthropies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and assistance to Greek and Greek Orthodox families. Involvement in social and moral issues encouraged the establishment of several committees to address topics such as child abuse prevention, domestic violence, homelessness, pornography, drug and alcohol abuse, and aging.
Since 1987, the National Philoptochos office has employed a professional Social Worker, engaged in assisting the Greek Orthodox community in the United States as well as Greek and Cypriot nationals. The Department of Social Services is a very important, vital element of our organization. The mission of the Department is to improve the quality of life of those in need, in a way that maintains the dignity and self-respect of the individuals. Through confidential and professional services, the office provides outreach, education, information, support, intervention, motivation, advocacy, financial assistance and referral to local and broader resources. (From the National Philoptochos website)
I am so proud of our parish ladies that we have come to this milestone as a parish. The money they raise, the time they dedicate to charities, the efforts they put into making people’s loves better, more comfortable and with a greater sense of dignity will now be expanded upon a much larger stage. Look out world, to God’s greater glory, here come the St. Anna Ladies!
I ask that you continue to pray for the dynamic women of our parish. Please pray for them, their families, their endeavors and their efforts, both individual and collective, to be the loving hand of God in a suffering world. Our parish of St. Anna is only one of two, TWO parishes in the Metropolis of Denver named after a female saint: St. Katherine’s and us (besides the Monastery of St. Paraskeve). Our own parish identity is that of a strong, faithful, long-suffering, and patient woman. She lived her life for God and family. She is the mother of the Mother of all. Let us celebrate her very legacy through our support of Philoptochos efforts locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. There is much work to be done. Our ladies are equipped and ready.
This is all so exciting!
With Much Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!
Last Sunday, following the Divine Liturgy (and a wonderful lunch sponsored by amazing Russian and Ukranian members of parish family), we held our Spring Parish Assembly. Among other business, we shared the latest details on our building project. When I see you tomorrow morning for Sunday Divine Liturgy, we you will notice, even from now, significant progress.
I would like to share with you, the prayer I lifted up on behalf of our community, to begin the blessed process of transforming our massive space into sacred space.
Please, don’t just read the following words, pray them. Lift them up in your voice. Please speak to God through your heart.
As of Monday, the mess began. And so does the fun, excitement and anticipation. By God’s grace, I offer this for your consideration…
Let us Pray to the Lord.
Lord Have Mercy.
O God Almighty, Who made the Heavens with wisdom and has established the earth upon its sure foundations, the Creator and Author of all men, look upon these Your servants, the parishioners of your St. Anna Church, dedicated to the ministry, witness and eternal memory of Your maternal grandmother. Grant these Your children to whom it has seemed good to build up a house of worship, in the dominion of Your Power, and to rear it by building; establish it upon a stable rock, and found it according to Your divine word in the Gospel, so that neither wind, nor flood, nor any other thing shall be able to harm it; graciously grant that we may bring it to completion, and deliver all us who shall wish to worship therein from every attack of the evil one.
You, O Lord, gave your instructions to build the Ark of the Covenant to house the tablets of Your Commandments.
You, O Lord, before the coming of the flood waters, gave your instructions to build the Ark of Noah, thus preserving life on Earth, awaiting Your redemption and mercy,
You, O Lord, gave the instructions upon which Your Temple was built in Jerusalem, so that your people would know You, Find You and worship You.
You, O Lord are the architect of life, the creator of existence, the designer of this word, the heavens and all that exists.
You are the builder of the Church. For You, O Lord, are the Church.
Lord God, bless our efforts as we begin the task of transforming the building, which in Your wisdom, and through the clear intercessions of St. Anna, has been received by your people.
Bless the hands of the craftsmen who are charged with the transformation of a Garden Center, to the Center of Your Garden. Allow us to find here, Your Kingdom. Allow us to walk through Your Garden Gates to find comfort, peace, refreshment, respite, clarity and grace.
Lord, keep the construction workers and all who will enter herein for the following many months, safe from and harm or injury.
Lord, please continue to inspire in us a spirit of sacrifice, generosity, and vision. Allow us to see to the end, a house dedicated to you: a dignified space of Orthodox worship. A place for fellowship and learning. A place for gathering as a Christian people of service and outreach.
Lord, let this transformed place, with bells tolling, and voices singing, be a source of witness to the greater community. Let the people see a transfigured space and divinely purposed grounds, that your face may shine upon them. Let them be introduced to You through the efforts we are about to undertake.
Lord Christ our God, You have guided us to this place. Inspire and strengthen us. Grant us patience and understanding in the coming months as our spiritual lives will no doubt be inconvenienced and disrupted at times. Let the challenges of each passing day not cause us frustration or resentment, but rather show us the greater and ultimate purpose that will be revealed in the end.
Lord, never let our spirit of gratitude ebb or fade. We are grateful for all of the abundant gifts that You have showered down upon us. Keep us mindful that You are the one and only reason we have embarked on such an ambitious journey.
Lord, allow us to enjoy every milestone, point of progression and completed task in our church construction project. Every new wall, stone, door, tile and hinge will be placed to bring You glory.
Lord. We ask of You. Bless the beginning steps of this effort.
For Yours is the dominion, and Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Christ is Risen From the Dead, Trampling Down Death by Death, and upon Those in the Tombs He is Bestowing Life. Truly the Lord is Risen!
With Much Love and Gratitude in our Risen Lord,
Fr. Anthony Savas