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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter November 27, 2016

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
– I Thess.5:18

On the eve of a most reflective and glorious day, I can say nothing more than the president who granted this Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy:

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.

They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

As His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver reminded us this past Sunday during his homily, Thanksgiving Day is the only National Holiday that is centered on God. We will do well to be grateful. Un unappreciative heart is a dark, cold place.

St. Gregory the Wonderworker says that “Ingratitude is despicable…the most despicable thing of all. For someone who has experienced something good not to try to return the favor, even if he can manage no more than verbal thanks, he must plainly be obtuse and insensitive to his benefits, or thoughtless.”

We have much for which to be grateful. I pray you enjoy the day most splendidly.

With Love and Gratitude in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas

ALSO PLEASE REMEMBER:

His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah and Dn. Paul Zaharas will be here for the Feast of the Conception of the Theotokos. This is one of the feasts of St. Anna, so it is a Feast Day of our parish. Please come and participate! These services remind us what a blessing it is to have THE mother of the Theotokos as our matron saint and intercessor before Christ.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8TH, 7:00 PM, GREAT VESPERS WITH ARTOCLASIA (BLESSING OF SWEET BREADS)
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9TH, 9:30 AM ORTHROS, 10:30 AM DIVINE LITURGY
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11TH, 9:15 AM ORTHROS, 10:15 HIERARCHICAL DIVINE LITURGY

2016 STEWARDSHIP: PLEASE COMPLETE YOUR PLEDGE FOR THIS YEAR.

2017 STEWARDSHIP: PLEASE PICK UP, PRAY ABOUT, FILL IN, AND SEND BACK YOUR PLEDGE CARDS. WE WILL BLESS OUR STEWARDSHIP OFFERING UPON THE ALTAR ON SUNDAY, DECEMBER 4TH DURING THE DIVINE LITURGY.

I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS FESTIVE DISPLAY OF FALL COLORS.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter November 20, 2016

“Today, the most pure temple of the Savior, the precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasure of God, enters the house of the Lord, bringing the grace of the Divine Spirit. The Angels of God praise her. She is the heavenly tabernacle.”
– Kontakion Hymn for the Entrance of the Theotokos (Into the Temple)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
A week from today, we as a Nation, and throughout individual households, will sit down, together with family, friends and loved ones to share a meal together. Though this happens every day and with little notice or attention, next Thursday’s dinner is not about the meal itself, or even the people, themselves, gathered around the table.
It won’t be an anniversary or a birthday that will bind the people through tradition. It’s not a feast day of the church or a religious holiday. Thanksgiving Day is grounded in the gratitude of the people for the foundation and preservation of our fine country. It’s a National Holiday; secular in design, though spiritual in foundation.
But early next week, while your neighbors are jotting down lists, exchanging recipes and borrowing extra folding chairs, we as Orthodox Christians have another commemoration of thanksgiving that will be celebrated. Children won’t act out this expression of thanksgiving in school plays, and there are no decorations to be found in stores which reflect this historical event.
Monday, November 21st, we celebrate the Feast of the Theotokos’ Entrance into the Temple. Through the Gospel (Protoevangelium) of St. James, authored by the brother of Jesus Christ, we are blessed with the details of the Theotokos’ birth and early life.
On this day, the Theotokos was brought to the Temple at three years of age, where she was consecrated to God and spent her days there until she was fourteen or fifteen years old.
When the Panaghia turned two years old, St. Ioakim, the father of the Theotokos, told St. Anna, “Let us take her up to the Temple of the Lord, so that we may pay the vow which we have vowed.” (Prot. James 7:2). In other words, “Since we are so thankful to God for giving us a child, we will dedicate her wholly and completely to His service.”
By Ss. Ioakim and Anna’s sincere gratitude towards God, the Theotokos lived an undistracted life of virtue, chastity, prayer and righteousness. She dwelt in His holy dwelling place until she was of age to be betrothed to the noble Joseph. Ultimately petitioned by God to bear His Son, she brought to fruition, His plan of salvation for the entire human race.
It all began with thanksgiving.
The turn of events in our fallen world began with gratitude.
The scales of divine justice were tipped in our favor through appreciation.
God reintroduced goodness into the world, and we were thankful.
It is my fervent prayer that before we consider the historical events of Thanksgiving Day, and our contemporary traditions which orbit around it, we take the time to meditate upon the gratitude of Ss. Ioakim and Anna. They made a promise to God out of their appreciation of what He did for them.
And what He did for them, was a gift to us all – eternal life.
Be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!
With Love in XC,
Fr. Anthony

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter November 13, 2016

“O Holy Master, Almighty Father and Pre-Eternal God, Who alone made and directed all things; Who rises up quickly against the evil of the impious ones; Who, by Providence, teaches Your people preservation of Justice and the obliteration of the sword on earth; Who condescend to raise up military columns to help the people: O God, Who commanded the Forerunner John to say to the soldiers coming to him in the desert, “Do not intimidate anyone … and be content with your wages:” We entreat You with compunction, that You gave Your child David the power to defeat Goliath, and as You condescended, through Judas Maccabeus, to seize victory from the arrogant pagans who would not call on Your Name; so too, grant protection in righteousness and truth to these Your servants against the enemies rising against them, and by Your heavenly loving-kindness, strength and might for the preservation of faith and truth. Condescend, out of Your mercy, O Master, to grant them the fear of You, together with humility, obedience and good endurance; that they kill no one unrighteously, but rather preserve all righteousness and truth; that they may fear You and honor Justice; that they run in friendship to those who are scattered, extending Your love to those near them, serving the elderly with justice; and that their ranks fulfill all things righteously; For You are our God, and to You do we ascribe glory; to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
– Orthodox Prayer for a Soldier in Time of War

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Several years ago, once when Veterans Day fell on a Sunday, my parish sponsored a program where our Vets displayed memorabilia from their time in the military, wore their uniforms, and introduced us, and most profoundly our children, to the realities of their time in various combat arenas. It was a beautiful sight; the men who took pride in their service to Country, and the grateful citizens who offered sentiments of profound thanksgiving.
One man particularly, a gentle, elderly man by the name of Athanasios (Tom) captivated our son’s attention. Damian was only a small boy at the time, and he couldn’t remove himself from looking at the pictures displayed, which featured the plane Tom flew in World War II. He was utterly captivated. Those aerial shots of his massive bomber were impressive to say the least. But it was more than pictures of old airplanes that drew him to Tom’s table. This veteran took the time to offer details about life as a WWII pilot. He was inviting and engaging. He drew in a little boy without romanticizing the violence of war, but making us all feel proud of his accomplishments and those of his fellow service men and women.
Our son walked away that day, having met a real hero, and carrying with him, his own pictures of Tom’s plane, together with the gift of his Captain’s Bars. What a treasure for a little boy!
This circumstance involved one child and one veteran. There are countless opportunities for such instances to occur because of the great number of people who have given their time and their very lives to the high purpose of defending our country. Veterans Day, occurring tomorrow, November 11th, is that special time when we can pray for and reach out to the sacrificial souls who commit themselves to our freedoms. I found what is the most concise and clear explanation about Veteran’s Day, of which I will share with you. It reads:
“On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as “the Great War.” Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning the following year, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.”
It introduced a brief video on the history of this special day and why we need to be ever mindful.

War is not to be celebrated, only lamented. But the people who fight the war: those who pay the costs, suffer the losses, make the critical decisions and face the dangers are to be thanked and blessed. For all of you who have served in the American Armed Forces, I, on behalf of our loving community, extend our prayerful sentiments, sincere gratitude and profound appreciation. If you have served in times of war, thank you for placing yourselves in the face of grave danger, so that we may live in freedom. And to the men and women who were blessed to serve in times of peace, I am profoundly grateful that your skills, preparation and training proved to be weapons of deterrent, not catastrophe.
God bless our veterans. God bless our country. God bless our freedom. God bless you.
With Gratitude and Love in XC,
Fr. Anthony

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter November 6, 2016

“Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God’s mercy and love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall he saved.” – St. John Chrysostom

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,
My Thursday “work day” is almost over. Each week, I consider the writing of this message to be either the last thing I do today, or the first thing I’ll do tomorrow. Most weeks it is actually both! Thursdays are typically very busy days for me. Today was no exception.
Just to walk you through the course of my day, I want to share with you, the three main items that were on my mind, in my prayers, and on my list of things to do.
On Friday evening, I am participating in a very special occasion. Catholic Community Services of Salt Lake City is hosting their annual Humanitarian Awards Dinner. Having been asked to deliver the Invocation at this amazing event, I’ve been thinking and praying throughout the day, what it means to offer one’s services to God, through the least of His people. What motivates us to dedicate time and resources to the crestfallen and needy? How does God, not man, recognize such virtue?
For the many of us who offer some measure of assistance to those less fortunate, there are a precious few, who, like tomorrow’s Recipients, stand out through their dynamic and prolific works. We all want to lend a helping hand. But to some, their desire to change the world for the better, is taken to new heights and exalted realms.
I am deeply honored to pray for the blessing upon such an occasion; the celebration of humanitarian efforts. Earlier today I prayed, thought, jotted down some ideas, wrote and rewrote some phrases that I hope will bring glory to God.
Let’s see. What else did I do today/yesterday?
As I’m sure you’re aware, we have an election just around the corner. This election will define the course of our future, further establish our goals, and grant us the opportunity to lift up leaders from amongst the best of ourselves.
No, I’m not speaking of next Tuesday’s election. I’m writing about our parish election on December 4th, where we will elect a new Parish Council for the next year, and look to the coming months for further growth through God’s blessings, and through the proper fidelity and direction of St. Anna’s new and continuing leadership.
Now is the time of year, and today was the day, to prepare election packets, organize the forms, gather the Committee and pave the way for a smooth and well-executed Parish Council Election. But no matter how organized the committee, or how accurately prepared are the forms, there can be no election, without faithful and capable candidates.
I am continually impressed and humbled by the sacrificial service and continued levels of enthusiasm, demonstrated by our Parish Council. And to think of the new people who, perhaps for the first time, will respond to the Call, and enter a life of steadfast service to the church as future members of the Parish Council.
My I say parenthetically, that if you have any desire to run for the Parish Council, please contact me immediately. I would love to discuss your wish to serve the Lord through the people of our community.
Hmm.. Busy, busy…What else?
I starting jotting down notes about each of the Divine Liturgies that will be celebrated in the month of November. Ideas for little sermons. Besides Sunday mornings, there are still FIVE other Feasts to celebrate this month. They are as follows:
The Synaxis of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, November 8th
St. Nektarios the Wonderworker, November 9th
The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, November 21st
St. Katherine the Great Martyr, November 25th
St. Andrew the First-Called Apostle, November 30th
Each of these saints, including the Heavenly, Bodiless Powers; the Archangels, are lifted up, so that we can prayerfully contemplate their service to God. Through their unique ministries and personal acts of devotion to Christ, we have luminaries in our midst, of whom we can emulate and follow. Their stories should blend into our own paths towards salvation as we incorporate their zeal for Christ into our daily living. Today, I began to organize the rest of this month around these great and holy days.
And so it is, that with these completed tasks, and a few others, this day comes to an end. It was a lovely day. And it was lovely because my “to-do list” revolved completely around one, simple concept; service to God who is merciful towards us.
Philanthropists and Humanitarian leaders who are recognized for their contributions; future Parish Council Members who will one day soon, be spending hours, resources and energies towards the administration of our parish, and the Saints -recognized and honored- for their crowns of glory, all embody, in various degrees and through differing expressions, what St. John Chrysostom had to share in the above-referenced quote.
We can receive awards. We can serve on councils and boards. We can even be glorified and sanctified as saints!
But what does any of it matter, if God is not merciful towards us? Salvation is not gained through the work of our hands, if not by the saving nature of our Saving Lord. It is good to serve Him in any capacity. At all times and in every way.
Well what do you know, in the time it took to share these pastoral thoughts, today became yesterday, and it’s already tomorrow. I’ll be sending this message to you shortly.
With Much Love in the Service of Christ,
Fr. Anthony

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter October 30, 2016

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” – Psalm 32:8

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

Very recently I was visiting someone in the hospital and as I was leaving, the patient’s grandchild was just coming into the lobby, there to visit their grandparent with a package of Oreos in hand. Though the person in the hospital had not eaten in a few days, Oreo cookies were all that sounded good. And what’s wrong with an Oreo Diet, right?

Though there are countless varieties of cookies, Oreos sort of stand alone in their own category. The way that these delights are eaten, says a lot about the person who is consuming it at the moment. Some people take little nibbles from it; others pop the entire thing with one bite. Some twist them apart, eating the filling first on both sides, while still, others perform the same ritual with the only difference being that the practice is completely repeated with each side.

However you may eat them, the basic truth is that an Oreo has two sides and middle. This, I believe is a metaphor for life. We enjoy our youth, we live life as it comes to us in the vast space of the “middle,” then if blessed, we live our senior years.

Of course, there is no precise definition for these life-categories. There are individuals who take a long time to grow up. Some people “become older” sooner than others. And finally: the shifting, “middle years,” or filling, that we all experience between childhood and retirement.

The Church has a great interest in serving our spiritual needs, and piquing our sacred interests, no matter our individual ages. As listed in this week’s Bulletin, I highlight for you, the coming events of our St. Anna’s youth Ministry:

JOY Ministry (K-5th Grade): Following the fellowship hour today, Sunday, October 30, 2016, the children of our JOY Ministry will gather in Classroom 9 for a brief meeting before we depart for an afternoon at the Wheeler Historic Farm located at 6351 South 900 East, Murray. This will be a fun and beautiful autumn activity. Please bring $10.00 for the corn maze, hay ride, outdoor activities and a pumpkin. Fun with JOY!

GOYA Meeting (6th-12th Grade): Our First GOYA Meeting will take place on Tuesday, November 15, 2016, at 7:00 p.m. at the home of Mitchell and Matthew Mallas, 8373 South Stonefield Road, Sandy. Although their parents won’t allow another shaving cream fight in their living room, we will have just as much fun and will learn some things about our precious Faith and our love for Christ! Please join us.

GOYA Outing – Utes Basketball: On Monday, November 28, 2016, we will be going to see the Utah Runnin’ Utes play Butler University at the Huntsman Center, 1825 South Campus Drive, Salt Lake City. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. Admission is free with a “Pass of all Passes.” Look for more information about where we’ll meet and how to get tickets if you don’t have the “Pass.”

The activities for our youth can be considered one side of the Oreo. But the other side of the cookie, the part of life which comes after many years have been lived, countless memories have been banked, and wisdom has been gained, are our senior years.

As I stated above, the middle years of our life, our “filling” if you will, is different for everyone. There are those who live as an “Oreo Thin cookie, with not much happening in the middle, and others lead the lives of Double Stuff! Exciting. But eventually, if God wills it, we reach our senior years. AARP defines these years starting at 50. Myself, reaching the half-century mark in a few months, kindly disagree.

Never the less, God, as the Psalmist writes, instruct us and teaches us in the way we should go; and will counsel us with His eye upon us for our entire lives. He does not stop guiding us at puberty or cease to teach us after high school. We are all his children. We are all children in His eyes. We are ever-youthful and in need of guidance from Him.

Therefore, we have established a Senior’s Ministry at St. Anna’s in the interest of serving the needs of those who may have some time during the day to come together in fellowship, faith and love. We are defining “Senior” any way you wish; supposing that if you think you are a senior, as early as 50, then come join us.

Our First Meeting will take place on Tuesday, November 15th at 12:00 pm

If you consider yourself a Senior and would like to come and help plan our activities, set some goals, define our purpose and plot our course, please join us in the Fellowship Hall. Lunch will be provided.

I envision this as an opportunity to listen to speakers, plan fun field trips, engage in spiritual discussion and learning, and glorify our God who has allowed His children to reach the golden years of their lives. Carolyn Leitko has graciously offered to serve as the coordinating chairman of this group. I am ever-appreciative of her willingness to serve.

St. Anna Youth Ministry, St. Anna Senior’s Ministry and everything in-between. That’s a cookie we can all enjoy! Taste and see that the LORD is good (Psalm 34:8).

With Love in XC,
Fr. Anthony

REMEMBER THAT JOY WILL MEET AFTER THE FELLOWSHIP HOUR, THEN PROCEED TO WHEELER HISTORIC FARM FOR OUR FALL ACTIVITY. ALL CHILDREN IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, PLEASE JOIN US!

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter October 23, 2016

“We may study as much as we will, but we shall still not come to know the Lord unless we live according to His commandments, for the Lord is not made known through learning but by the Holy Spirit.”
– St. Silouan the Athonite

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The other day, I was following, then driving alongside a car marked “STUDENT DRIVER.” This proclamation, or perhaps warning was prominently placed on the back and both sides of the car. I am not sure whether this sign is placed there to caution other drivers, or to put us on our best behavior, as to not introduce bad road habits to the nervous driver behind the wheel of his or her mobile, teaching laboratory.

This young person was driving very slowly and very deliberately. I caught myself counting the seconds between his signal, and the actual lane change. He looked both directions before entering into the intersection with a clear and obvious green light. He did not go a hair over the speed limit and stopped at the next yellow light. I impatiently thought to myself, “I don’t remember driving that slow. “C’mon. Move!”

Isn’t that a shame on my part?

Why should years of driving erode my attention to detail, commitment to caution and unhurried movement? To be sure, human nature contributes to the differing behaviors of those who possess a license to operate a vehicle, and those who are still in the process of obtaining one. Sad, right?

Traffic laws are the same for all people who use the roads. There are not two sets of rules: strict guidelines for new drivers and diluted, casual suggestions for experienced drivers. This is not the case at all. So why are there two sets of rules in my mind? Shouldn’t I observe the strict letter of every law just as the new driver?

Bright red stop signs are not invitations to slow down and proceed. Rather, they are commands to do what is plainly and clearly stated: stop. Something my kids are continually reminding me as I drive in our neighborhood. The information that the new motorist receives before beginning to drive, is the same information I must recall, process and put into use today and every day.

But becoming a bit lax in that which is common, comfortable or familiar is not limited to our driving habits. Often times, we can also take our spiritual lives for granted. We begin to cut corners in our prayers, fasting, readings and church attendance so slowly, that we don’t even realize what we are doing. The knowledge we gained in Sunday School, sitting around our grandmother’s table, or listening to the sermons of our childhood are relegated to distant memories, rather than active contributions to the well-being of our souls. Therefore, I thoroughly enjoy people who are active learners in matters of faith. Especially those who are new to Orthodoxy; approaching every detail like a student driver mastering the art of parallel parking.

Just this evening, we began our fall session of Orthodox Spirituality Classes. The class was filled with cradle Orthodox Christians, who have been exposed to our church for their entire lives; and people who have only, recently been introduced to the tenants, practices, traditions and teachings of the world’s most ancient, Christian Confession.

Just like driving, there are things to learn before we “hit the road” of practicing our faith. Where are the boundaries? What are safe practices? How fast should we move? And in in what direction?!? The Faithful who take the time to learn good habits from the beginning, and who develop the strength and maturity to maintain them, are those who will share in the Kingdom. Of course, let’s also celebrate those who have been raised in the Faith, but who are aware that it’s good to refresh, renew and re-acquaint.

Please pray for the students of our Spirituality Class. Pray that the information they receive will help them acquire the blessedness of the saints, and that they will always hold dear, even years from now, the enthusiasm and fervor they now feel. While the Gospel is new to them today, let it breathe new life into them tomorrow. And also, pray for yourselves, that you may approach the Altar, the Chalice, and your personal place of devotion with the same commitment and conviction.

Keep, always in your hearts, the words of St. Silouan, reminding us that no matter how much we study, no matter how much information we receive or how many books we read, it is the Holy spirit that keeps us in the presence of the Lord. It is one thing to read about God. It is yet another to experience Him. Those who study the Faith for the first time are simultaneously accomplishing both. Let us be led by their example. Even if it is a bit more deliberate than we are accustomed to moving. Because that’s a good thing!

With Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter October 16, 2016

“Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive.” – Book of Acts 36-41

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I have cherished the above-referenced portion of Scripture for many years. Within context, it helps to paint a vivid picture of the early Church, and bears witness to the power of God as expressed through the work of the disciples. Just before Peter came to Joppa and raised Tabitha from her death bed (just after she had been ritually cleansed and prepared for burial), he had performed another miracle; healing a man who had been paralyzed for some, eight years.

To be sure, the excitement of the embryonic Church, as She began to emerge on the world scene, alter the course of history and influence countless cultures throughout the world was self-evident in size and scope. But as thousands were baptized, the saints engaged in missionary journeys, the Gospel was preached and the news of the Resurrection was spread in every known language, all of these dynamic realities came down to personal relationships. Nations were converted, but individuals were saved. The Church grew in numbers, only because each of those numbers, in reality, were people who heard the Word of God and responded to their newly-received gift of salvation.

And one of those people: mentioned in Scriptures, but lost in the masses is St. Tabitha (who actually celebrates her Feast on October 25th). She was a woman who was continually working to serve the needs of the poor. Her mission in life was to engage in acts of charity and perform good works unto the glory of God. Scripture tells us specifically that she made clothes for the poor. By her own hands, she labored for the sake of God’s kingdom as she crafted, knitted and sewed.

We know that she was much-loved. Upon her death, her partners in kindness, her sisters in ministry, summoned the Apostle Peter, in order that he might perform a mighty miracle of resurrection. I understand this to mean that her companions recognized that there was no one on earth that could possibly serve the needs of the poor as she did. They saw her ministry as unrepeatable, and simply could not bear to have her acts of kindness cease to exist. It would seem that the Lord would agree with their plan!

St. Tabitha represents the dedication, kindness, empathy, generosity and love that can only come from the Lord. And through her person, and her God-crowned and precious soul, we have an example to lift up, and a life to emulate. There is no doubt in my heart, that the ladies of our St. Anna’s Women’s Ministry Team have channeled the actions of this great saint, and continue her legacy of service, sacrifice and most especially love.

When there is a need, we call upon the Women’s Ministry. When there is suffering or despair, we call upon the Women’s Ministry. When the tender hand of God is required to provide comfort, offer dignity, ease a pain or round and edge; we have, by God’s grace our Women’s Ministry, ready and available.

There function in the parish is not to bake or to serve. Theirs is a ministry; a ministry in the truest and fullness of any understanding of the word. They are generous with their time, their energies, their emotions and their resources.

But, as is always the case in any organizations which strives to serve the greater good, resources are never in abundance and always highly sought-after. This is where we all come into the picture. While St. Tabitha made the tunics, she needed others to assist her in funding her projects, perhaps organizing their distribution and weighing the needs. She couldn’t do it all alone. She, and all the women and widows gathered around her, needed support.

So it is with our own Women’s Ministry.

Saturday evening, October 15th, you will have the opportunity to help them in their mission. Their Stifatho (you’ve seen it spelled differently, this is my preference) Cook Off will be held in the foyer of St. Thomas More’s Meyer Hall. A few men, myself included, will square off in the spirit of healthy competition to battle over the adoration of your taste buds. My recipe is not an ancient, family treasure, but rather the combination of what two, favorite cookbooks have to share. Please join us…

THIS IS THEIR PRIMARY FUND RAISING EVENT OF THE YEAR.

You may not like Stifatho, that’s OK, come anyway for the pilaf and the company.

You may not like onions, that’s OK, pick around them, and join the aforementioned individuals around the pilaf table.

You may not have ever even heard of this dish (a savory meat ragout served with/over rice), but be adventurous! Pretend it’s a County Fair Chili Cook Off and join the festivities. Did I mention?…

THIS IS THEIR PRIMARY FUND RAISING EVENT OF THE YEAR.

There is still plenty of space available and there will be plenty of food, wine and laughter. St. Tabitha needed supporters and sponsors. Our women are no different. Read the flyer in the Bulletin, please participate and pretty please, be generous. I believe that we are blessed with at least one “St. Tabitha’s” in our midst. Let’s not let our ladies go at it alone. I remain,

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony

 

Orthodox Married Life (OML) Begins Friday, October 14, 2016 at 7:00 pm. Married and Engaged Couples, Please Join Us!

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter October 9, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Given the enormity of details concerning the visit of His Eminence and the preparations for the Ordination that will take place this blessed Sunday, I ask your forgiveness for not providing a proper, pastoral message this week.

I do, however ask that you pray most earnestly for the servant of God, Gregory Jerry Floor, his family, their well-being, Godly protection and salvation. May He also, and always bless his ministry. Please keep in mind a few thoughts…

There will NOT be Sunday School Classes this weekend due to the Ordination and the presence of His Eminence.

Due to the enthusiasm of your participation in our weekly Bible Study, we have moved the class to the Fellowship Hall on Wednesday evenings. We busted out of two classrooms! Now, even more of you can participate! Please join us as we study St. John’s Apocalypse, also known as
The Book of Revelation.

Support our Women’s Ministry Team with your participation in the Stifado Cook-Off next Saturday, October 15th. Our women are able to be generous to those in need if we are generous towards their efforts. Let’s be partners in bringing comfort, joy, and assistance to those in need.

Please keep in mind that our Introduction to Orthodox Spirituality Class will begin Thursday, October 20th. Please invite your friends, family members who have fallen away from the Church, and anyone you know that is interested in Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Let us continue to grow this parish through the natural means of Orthodox Christian evangelism and love for the Lord. Bring someone to St. Anna’s!

Well, there you have it; announcements, rather than a sermon. God is good!

With Much Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter October 2, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thursday afternoon was a special time for the people of Cottonwood Heights, the state of Utah and our St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church. After twelve years of municipal incorporation, nearly three years of planning, the purchase of eight, separate, residential properties and the excitement/stress of a massive, building project, the city held the Ribbon Cutting Program for its new City Hall Building.

Our parish cannot cease to express thanksgiving and gratitude to the fine people of St. Thomas More; their clergy, leaders and parishioners who continue to embrace St. Anna’s with Christian love, support, fellowship and general enthusiasm. And really, both of our communities are blessed to be located in this beautiful city.

Several weeks ago, I was asked to give the Invocation at the Cottonwood Heights Police Department Awards Banquet. It was a lovely evening. The city reached out to our parish once again, and asked that I give the Invocation at their Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. To be sure, any time we can offer an Orthodox presence, witness the love we have for our Savior, Jesus Christ, or thankfully oblige the request of the police chief or mayor, we begin to be contributors to our surrounding area. We can be counted on for doing good things with, and for our neighbors.

Following is the prayer which was offered to the people of Cottonwood Heights on the occasion of their City Hall’s opening:

“Let us Pray to the Lord. Lord Have Mercy.

God Almighty, who made the heavens in wisdom and set the foundations of the earth firmly in place, who through our Lord, Jesus Christ, establishes us, unshaken upon the rock of faith, do You, the same Lord, the benevolent creator, the imaginative Architect, the master Builder, the generous Provider, the ultimate Sustainer of this world and the entire universe…look down and bless these grounds, this building, those whose hands shaped and formed it, those who will work here, and those who will be served here – the citizens of Cottonwood Heights, Utah.

Let the pathways that lead to this City Hall be paved with the purest of intentions to fulfill the needs of the people. Let the doorways that lead into this building be portals of humility and dignity. Let the walls of this building support the ideals of a model municipality. Let the windows of this building allow us to look upon the picturesque and formidable mountains which define our lovely city, and allow these same windows to serve as symbols of transparent practice, clear vision and honest government.

Good and gracious Lord, allow this building not to have been built upon the sand, but upon You, the ever-stable and steadfast rock. If the rains should pour, if the rivers overflow, if the snow weighs down, if the wind blows, if the earth trembles, may it never fall or be disturbed in any way. For this land was not acquired by fire or the sword, but rather through the peaceful undertakings of a city whose purpose is to serve, inspire, protect and promote. You have richly blessed, and bestowed great trust in your faithful Stewards… the mayor, council, executives, employees, officers, firefighters, citizens, community volunteers and all associated with the City of Cottonwood Heights.

This is their building. This is their legacy. This is the work of their hands.

Bless, Oh Lord, this work, for to You belong all glory…our Father who is in Heaven, Your only-begotten Son and creative Word, together with your holy and life-giving Spirit. Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.”

I gratefully crafted this prayer with the intention of imparting God’s blessing upon their efforts, hoping that those who work there will always be safe, and those who are in need of the city’s services will always be attended to with joy and humility. I also wanted the people of our city to hear how we pray. To understand the Lord’s presence in our lives, the way we do. To give Him the praise, credit, honor and glory for any accomplished task; great or small. It was also a prayer of anticipated joy.

Anticipation of what?

I truly believe, that it was no small coincidence, that in one hour I was blessing the completion of a municipal building project, then nearly the next hour, I was blessing the first steps of our own aspirations, dreams and goals. Last night, for the first time, our joint committees of Capitol Fund Raising, Long Range Planning and Real Estate came together to plot our course for the future.

By God’s grace, I believe that we will continue to grow, that the spiritual hunger of our parish will continue to rise, the pastoral needs of our people will continue to increase, and that God will demand more of us in terms of outreach, Orthodox evangelism and service to the greater community.

It is one thing to pray for the completion of a secular building (as beautiful as it is). How much more, must we pray for our own house of worship? Can we hope to sustain our vision? Can we count on continued enthusiasm? Will we acquire an even greater sense of sacrificial awareness and commitment? The answer to these questions is, of course, “yes” of we are with God, doing it for God and wishing to serve God.

Pray for our efforts. As specific plans, goals and needs arise, please get intimately involved. This blessed task will most certainly take the dedication of every one of us who are blessed to call St. Anna our Matron Saint, and who lift her up in prayer as our great Intercessor.

The Cottonwood Heights City Hall is a most spectacular building. Today we prayed for its success. Let us continue to pray for the safety of the police officers who are dispatched from there, and the firefighters who are attached to there.

Let us also pray for ourselves. Let us pray for our endeavors. Let us pray for our blessed future.

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter September 25, 2016

“Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.” (Acts 6:1-6)

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

Think back to when you were a child. What did you want to be when you grew up? A doctor? A lawyer? A quarterback? An astronaut? The President, perhaps? The manager at Red Robin?

When children start playing with specific toys and gain roleplaying experience, and then link these two things together realizing that their moms and dads go off to work everyday, they then begin to “decide” what they want to be when they grow up. There are many exciting and well known professions which draw the attention of children; the kinds of jobs which ignite their imaginations at elementary school career days.

Big trucks. Shiny badges. Sharp uniforms. All this gets the kids’ consideration. And many people grow up to choose these jobs for their livelihood. Some jobs or careers, or specifically vocations, choose us. We don’t choose them.

Such it is with the Orthodox priesthood.

To be sure, maybe young boys watch and listen to their priests and want what they do for themselves. Ornate vestments, swinging the censer (not just holding it), chanting, talking to people, baptizing babies, marrying people, it all probably looks, and I’ll use this word specifically – glamorous. I am here to say, that even on the absolute worst day in ministry, it is profoundly more rewarding than any advertisement I ever produced, wrote, directed or pitched. The priesthood is not glamorous, but it is glorious.

As humbling, yet rewarding, as my work is, I firmly believe that I was chosen to serve; I did not choose to serve. I accepted God’s calling. I bring my few strengths and my innumerable weaknesses to serve the flock entrusted to my care.

I am privileged to share in your dreams, joys, accomplishments and celebrations. I am honored to walk with you in your darkest hours, moonless nights, frightening ordeals and (God forbid) catastrophic events. I don’t like it when my phone rings in the middle of the night, because I know that someone who suffers is on the other end. But the priest is there to answer, to bless, to comfort and to share. The people reach out, and the Church responds – that is Christ responds.

As priests, all we were ever promised at our ordination was a cross. The Cross. His Cross. But by God’s grace, and through the love of you, His people, ministry is more rewarding than can possibly be imagined. And soon, our parish will experience the joy of ministry in its inaugural form – the holy Diaconate.

On Sunday, October 9th, our own Gregory Floor will be ordained to the Diaconate by His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver here at St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church. God gave Gregory many talents. He could have chosen any direction on life’s pathway. Ultimately, and after many prayerful years of contemplation, he ended choosing nothing at all. God took over. He chose for Gregory.

I truly pray that we appreciate the magnitude of the honor bestowed upon our church by this blessed sacrament taking place here. The Floor and Georgelas families have long and rich ties to Orthodoxy in the Valley. And though our parish is but two short years old, Gregory says that “The people I love and the people who raised me attend St. Anna’s, so naturally that is where I want to be ordained.”

From now, I ask that you pray for Gregory and his dedicated wife, Cassandra, and their two children, Sophia Constantina & Luke Gregory. Gregory’s loving wife and children will be deeply involved in the ministry of their husband and father. Pray that the Lord will bless them with faith, strength, trust, discernment and above all, love. Pray that as Gregory continues his work as the director of admissions for Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, he will inspire the next generation of college students who wish to infuse their higher education with Orthodox practice, as well as graduate students who, themselves, feel called to serve at the Lord’s pleasure and for His purpose.

Surely, Gregory will one day pastor a Greek Orthodox parish. Pray that his flock is as kind, grounded, motivated, faithful and loving as the parish who will proclaim him “Axios” (that is worthy) at his Diaconate Ordination.

To me, Gregory epitomizes the finest of what the Church lifts up within the ranks of Her clergy, and you, the cohesive and Spirit-filled people of St. Anna’s, who always strive to do what is honorable before God, are the finest example of a Greek Orthodox community. Naturally, the day in which Gregory’s ordained service begins, will bring us together, gathered in this special church.

The Luncheon that is being offered in his honor, together with his family and His Eminence, is filling up quickly. The purpose of the Luncheon is to offer a place where we can gather, break bread, and joyfully celebrate the blessed events of the day. A day where Gregory and Cassandra’s family become one with our wider, church family.

We also intend to gift Gregory with an appropriate gesture of our love for him and the trust we have that his ministry will be one of dignity and holiness. I ask that you be generous in supporting our efforts to that end. The day of Gregory’s ordination will not only define his future, and the future of the universal Church, it will be recorded as an historical event in the life of St. Anna’s. This mirrors our Christian walk in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church: Christ ministers to the individual through the service of the masses. Everything revolves around the Liturgy and the Eucharist. On October 9th, His Eminence will offer consecrate the divine Gifts for the people, and the newly-ordained deacon will help distribute them. God’s grace will be upon us all.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Who does God want us to be, as we grow up?

Let Hiss will be done, as we grow together.

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony

Also, please pray for our Fr. Jimi Foreso. He is back in the hospital as they search for the reason he is experiencing small seizures. I spoke to him tonight. He sends his love and asks for your prayers.