Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Some very exciting news: our mosaics have been delivered. The artwork arrived on Thursday and remains crated and waiting for the installers to arrive in about ten days. We have been engaging these Italian artists for months.
The design, budgeting, creative and production process has been filled with great anticipation and prayerful jubilation. You could imagine my sense of excitement knowing that our shipment had cleared customs and was on its way. The truck pulled in, the delivery driver jumped out and then, one of the most significant interactions of my life took place. And it had nothing – NOTHING to do with glass mosaic tiles.
The delivery driver came into the building, and I immediately went to the door, extended my hand to greet him and introduced myself. The man shook my hand, then just stood there, staring at me. He didn’t say anything for what seemed to take forever. He just kept looking at me, almost beginning to cry. He then asked in very broken English “Do you speak Spanish?”
I told him no. He then took out his phone and started speaking into it with clear and deliberate speed in his own language. He then showed me his phone, which had translated what he said into English. “Here,” he said. I took his phone and read the message. Then, just like him as we first met, I began to get emotional and started to cry.
His phone read: “Thank you. For the first time since I’ve moved to this country, you are the very first person to shake my hand.”
Through the process of his phone translating, I asked him how long he’s been here.
He said just over three years.
By this point, I wasn’t even thinking about mosaics or artwork or construction or Italians or anything else. I was equally stunned with emotion.
This man, standing before me, was taken back with the most basic gesture of acknowledgement and connection. Upon his arrival, I did not see a delivery man, or a foreign guy walk through the doors of our church, but a person. I didn’t even think about the interaction in such terms. But he sure did.
Let’s think about the last three years. With the Pandemic, we all got out of the habit of shaking hands. The awkward combination of fist and elbow bumps replaced the firm handshake. Ricardo, our new friend came to the USA around this time. Perhaps the timing of his arrival made it so, that nobody, ever, extended a hand of greeting. For the sake of giving humanity the benefit of the doubt, I’ll naïvely accept that. But you and I know probably know that’s not true.
Let us always take the opportunity to respect and acknowledge everyone who comes into our lives. When we afford grocery clerks and cable installers with the same dignity, we offer our physicians and professors, we can see humanity through the eyes of Christ. We are all His children. We are all created in His image. We are accountable to Him by how we treat each other.
Can you imagine going three years without an acknowledgement of your existence? Would you want to walk through the halls of your office, school or warehouse as an invisible ghost? Always, always see the Other. Because the Other, is another occupant of this globe and represents Christ, Himself (Mt 25:31-46).
So, the mosaic icon is here. It depicts St. Anna walking in her garden with her daughter, the Theotokos. There is no image of Christ in this icon. But look with a prayerful, humble, discerning, and delicate eye. Then you’ll see Him.
He delivered it to us.
With Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am thrilled to officially share some wonderful news with our St. Anna Family, though we have touched on these subjects during divine services. The Metropolis of Denver, and our own parish are blessed to receive much needed and appreciated assistance in ministry and leadership on two, distinctively different fronts.
His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver has in no small measure, guided and grown our holy Metropolis for decades. His final “addition” to his holy “territory” was the establishment of the Greek Orthodox Mission Parish of Utah, which of course, became a chartered parish of the Archdiocese as the St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church of Sandy, Utah. His Eminence has proven to be a prayerful, holy and sacrificial, servant-shepherd. We are ever grateful for his episcopal support and guidance in the formation of our vibrant parish, and for all he has accomplished in his prolific ministry.
It is equally true that due to the Covid pandemic, his age and over-all health, His Eminence has not been able to travel the vast spaces of the Metropolis of Denver and has been in need of assistance, just like any priest in a large parish. The priests of the Metropolis of Denver are thrilled and excited to welcome our new Auxiliary Bishop, Bishop Elect Constantine of Sassima, as the assistant bishop to His Eminence. Following is his biography that was sent out from the Archdiocese.
His Grace is worthy, capable, gifted and kind. I have known (formally Fr. Dean Moralis) for over 30 years and there is not a single person on this Earth that is more suited for this specific ministry – here and now. This is not good news for our Metropolis. This is fantastic news! Make no mistake, Metropolitan Isaiah is still very much our local hierarch and remains in charge of the day-to-day life of the Metropolis. His Grace will be of great assistance to him and to us. To the newly elected bishop of our church and our metropolis – we jubilantly shout “Axios!” “He is Worthy!”
The Metropolis has requested that each parish share in the substantial, financial obligations of His Grace’s ordination and relocation from Baltimore to Denver. Parish Council President, Steve Simos and I have determined that a $2,000 pledge from our parish is acceptable, given the size of our parish and all of the responsibilities we have here at home, with our on-going build out. We will offer a special collection in the Narthex (we do not pass baskets) for this blessed cause. Please be as generous as able. This appointment will benefit our entire Metropolis and we eagerly look forward to the first hierarchal visit of His Grace.
His Grace Bishop Elect Constantine of Sassima (Moralis)
In continuation to the July 22, 2022, communication from the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Holy and Sacred Synod announcing the unanimous election of His Grace Bishop-elect Constantine of Sassima (Moralis) as an auxiliary Bishop for the Holy Metropolis of Denver, it is with much joy that our Sacred Archdiocese announces that His Grace’s ordination to the Holy Episcopacy will take place at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City this fall, on October 15.
His Grace Bishop-elect Constantine of Sassima (Moralis) was born in 1966 in Baltimore, Maryland. He is the son of the late Petros (a refugee from Asia Minor born in Athens) and Sarah (of Mobile, Alabama), and is the youngest of three children.
From an early age, His Grace served as an acolyte at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore, MD under the late Fr. Constantine M. Monios of blessed memory, a mentor who encouraged him to pursue ordained ministry. In 1988, he began his studies at Hellenic College and graduated from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 1994. He was ordained to both the holy Diaconate and Presbyterate in 1996 by the late Metropolitan Silas of New Jersey of blessed memory and was assigned to the Annunciation Cathedral in Baltimore — the same parish where he was baptized and raised — and has served as its pastor to the present day. He was elevated to the rank of Confessor in the year 2000 and to the rank of Archimandrite in 2002, at which time he was also installed as Dean of the Annunciation Cathedral. On July 22, 2022, he was elected by the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Holy and Sacred Synod as the Bishop of Sassima.
With over 1,000 families at the Cathedral, His Grace has worked tirelessly to serve the needs of the parish and the greater Baltimore community. He has established a number of programs for youth and young adults and is the founder of the Annunciation Senior Center. His Grace’s pride and joy, the Annunciation Senior Center affords senior members of the community a safe haven for Christian fellowship while receiving the highest level of care but has temporarily closed due to Covid. He served as the director of the Chesapeake region’s Camp Good Shepherd and has led four overseas pilgrimages. His Grace currently serves on the Board of Trustees for both Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and St. Basil Academy.
Now, on the opposite end of the Orthodox clerical spectrum, I am equally thrilled and grateful that St. Anna’s has been abundantly blessed with the attachment of Deacon John Kavas to our parish. Dn. John and his family are from Denver, CO and have recently relocated to Park City, Utah for reasons he spells out in his biography. Dn. John is a beautiful liturgist and an outstanding person. We welcome him, Diaconissa Julie, together with their youngest child, Joey to Utah. We also look forward to meeting their eldest three children Jonas, Jack and Jana when they come to visit from Colorado and Kansas. Dn. John generously volunteers his time to participate in the divine services of the church and in the future, will assist in the teaching ministries of St. Anna’s. It is important for us to realize that Dn. John was not assigned to serve at St. Anna’s by the Metropolis, but rather, he chose to serve here. We should always express our gratitude to him and his family for joining our spiritual home.
Beyond his profession as an attorney, he is a graduate of our Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA. And I should also say that Dn. John is a classmate of our own, dear Fr. Jimmy Foreso, who served the very first Divine Liturgy of our budding mission. He returned often to serve our community in its first year. Fr. Jimmy will always hold a special place in the heart of our parish. May his memory be eternal! Fr. Jimmy and Dn. John were very close friends, and I find it a divine nod, that the association of his ministry continues here through Dn. John. So let’s also meet…
Deacon John Kavas
Deacon John Kavas, his wife Diakonissa Julie and their youngest son Joey join St. Anna’s after relocating from Colorado. John and Julie have four children, ages 21-15, and live in Park City. Deacon John graduated from Colorado State University and the University of Denver College of Law.
He started his law practice in 2000 and joined Merlin International, a cybersecurity company in 2004 as its General Counsel. The family moved to Boston in 2008 where he continued to work in that capacity while he pursued a Masters of Divinity from Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.
After their four years in Boston, the family moved back to Denver where John was ordained as a Deacon. He began his volunteer ministry at St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Greenwood Village, Colorado, and continued to help grow his company in a new role as its Vice President of Corporate Development.
He left the company in 2019 and now works on various investment projects while serving as Vice Chair of the Intermountain Division Freestyle Committee of US Ski & Snowboard, and as a judge in mogul skiing. The family is so happy to be part of the St. Anna’s community!
New bells, new bishop, new deacon. These incredible blessings will open the door to the next phase of our construction as the exterior of the church, and the new storage building are nearly complete. Please look forward to the soon-to-be-shared announcements concerning Phase II of our construction – narthex, offices, bathrooms, and three of the five classrooms.
Much Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I want to thank the teachers, the children and their families who participated in last week’s Blessing upon our new Sunday School Year. We honored our teachers for their past years of service and called upon all children in attendance, to participate in the Sanctification of our efforts to learn and teach the Gospel, the Traditions of our Faith, and the history of our Church. Days into the same week, we celebrated the New Ecclesiastical Year on September 1st. And then days into next week, we will again turn our spiritual attention to the celebration of youth – as we celebrate the Nativity of the Theotokos on the 8th of September, then the Synaxis (Gathering) of her parents, Ss. Joachim and Anna, the following day, on September 9th.
The record of the birth of Mary is not found in the Bible. The traditional account of the event is taken from the apocryphal writings which are not part of the New Testament scriptures. The traditional teaching which is celebrated in the hymns and verses of the festal liturgy is that Joachim and Anna were a pious Jewish couple who were among the small and faithful remnant—“the poor and the needy”—who were awaiting the promised messiah.
The couple was old and childless. They prayed earnestly to the Lord for a child, since among the Jews barrenness was a sign of God’s disfavor. In answer to their prayers, and as the reward of their unwavering fidelity to God, the elderly couple was blessed with the child who was destined, because of her own personal goodness and holiness, to become the Mother of the Messiah-Christ.
Your nativity, O Virgin, has proclaimed joy to the whole universe. The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, has shone from you, O Theotokos. By annulling the curse, he bestowed a blessing. By destroying death he has granted us eternal life.Troparion
By your nativity, O most pure virgin, Joachim and Anna are freed from barrenness; Adam and Eve from the corruption of death. And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you: The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the Nourisher of our Life.Kontakion
The fact that there is no Biblical verification of the facts of Mary’s birth is incidental to the meaning of the feast. Even if the actual background of the event as celebrated in the Church is questionable from an historical point of view, the divine meaning of it “for us men and for our salvation” is obvious. There had to be one born of human flesh and blood who would be spiritually capable of being the Mother of Christ, and she herself had to be born into the world of persons who were spiritually capable of being her parents.
The feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, therefore, is a glorification of Mary’s birth, of Mary herself and of her righteous parents. It is a celebration as well of the very first preparation of the salvation of the world. For the “Vessel of Light,” the “Book of the Word of Life,” the “Door to the Orient,” the “Throne of Wisdom” is being prepared on earth by God Himself in the birth of the holy girl-child Mary.
The verses of the feast are filled with titles for Mary such as those in the quotations above. They are inspired by the message of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. The specific Biblical readings of the feast give indications of this.
At Vespers the three Old Testament readings are “Mariological” in their New Testament interpretation. Thus, Jacob’s Ladder which unites heaven and earth and the place which is named “the house of God” and the “gate of heaven” (Gen 28.10–17) are taken, to indicate the union of God with men which is realized most fully and perfectly—both spiritually and physically—in Mary the Theotokos, Bearer of God. So also, the vision of the temple with the “door ‘to the East’” perpetually closed and filled with the “glory of the Lord” symbolizes Mary, called in the hymns of the feast “the living temple of God filled with the divine Glory” (Ezek 43.27–44.4). Mary is also identified with the “house” which the Divine Wisdom has built for himself according to the reading from Proverbs 9.1–11.
The Gospel reading of Matins is the one read at all feasts of the Theotokos, the famous Magnificat from Saint Luke in which Mary says: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1.47).
The epistle reading of the Divine Liturgy is the famous passage about the coming of the Son of God in “the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man” (Phil 2.5–11) and the gospel reading is that which is always read for feasts of the Theotokos—the woman in the crowd glorifies the Mother of Jesus, and the Lord himself responds that the same blessedness which his mother receives is for all “who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk 11.27–28).
Thus, on the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, as on all liturgical celebrations of Christ’s Mother, we proclaim and celebrate that through God’s graciousness to mankind every Christian receives what the Theotokos receives, the “great mercy” which is given to human persons because of Christ’s birth from the Virgin.
On September 9, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Ancestors of God Saints Joachim and Anna, which refers to the gathering of the faithful after the Feast of the Nativity of Theotokos, honoring the commemoration of the parents of Panagia, the Most Holy Theotokos.
The righteous Joachim and Anna were childless for fifty years of their married life. In their old age, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to each one of them separately, telling them that God had heard their prayers and that they would give birth to a daughter, Mary. Then St. Anna conceived by her husband and after nine months bore a daughter blessed by God and by all generations of men: the Most-holy Virgin Mary, the Theotokos.
St. Joachim was of the lineage of Judah and a descendant of King David. Anna was the daughter of Matthan the priest, from the lineage of Levi, as was Aaron the high priest. Matthan had three daughters: Mary, Sophia and Anna. Mary married, lived in Bethlehem, and gave birth to Salome; Sophia married, also lived in Bethlehem, and gave birth to Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Forerunner; Anna married Joachim in Nazareth, and in old age gave birth to Mary, the Most-Holy Theotokos.
Joachim and Anna had lived together in marriage for fifty years and yet had remained barren. They lived devoutly and quietly, and of all their income they spent one third on themselves, distributed one third to the poor and gave the other third to the Temple, and they were well provided for. Once when in their old age they came to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice to God, the high priest Issachar reprimanded Joachim, saying: “You are not worthy that a gift be accepted from your hands, for you are childless.”
Others, who had children, pushed Joachim behind them as “unworthy.” This greatly grieved these two aged souls, and they returned home in great sorrow. Then the two of them fell down before God in prayer, that He works a miracle with them as He once had with Abraham and Sarah and give them a child as a comfort in their old age. Then God sent His angel, who announced to them the birth of “a daughter most-blessed, by whom all nations on earth will be blessed and through whom the salvation of the world will come.” Anna straightway conceived, and in nine months gave birth to the Holy Virgin Mary.
Saint Joachim died a few years later at the age of 80 after his daughter went to live in the Temple. Saint Anna died at the age of 70, two years after her husband. Saints Joachim and Anna are often invoked by couples trying to have children.
With Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas