December 2019 Newsletter
The calendar month of December is completely in the Nativity Fasting period. This is a period of forty days of preparation prior to the Nativity of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. In length like Great Lent prior to Pascha, this fast is not as strict wherefore fish is allowed on weekends and special feast-days during the week. However, like Great Lent, the Nativity fast is not optional for Orthodox Christians and must be observed to the best of one's ability. There are exceptions to the rule of fasting but these must be discussed with the priest.
December 4 (Nov 21 OS) is the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos. This one of the twelve major feast-days of the liturgical year and commemorates the taking of the three year old Virgin Mary to the temple by her parents. Since the Virgin Mary was a miraculous gift to the aged parents, they decided that she would be dedicated to God. She was taken to be raised with the other virgins in the temple in Jerusalem. The young Virgin ran up the steps of the temple and as she reached the top she was met by Zacharias, the future father of Saint John the Baptist. Zacharias was a priest and was serving in the temple at this time. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and carried the young Virgin into the temple and into the Holy of Holies, the sacred place where only the high priest entered once a year. The Virgin Mary was to be the Holy of Holies as she would contain god Incarnate within her womb and carry Him in her arms. The young Virgin would be raised in the temple dedicating her life to prayer, fasting, and perpetual virginity. The angels attended her as she grew.
On December 19 (Dec 6 OS) the Church celebrates the feast-day of Saint Nicholas who is revered throughout the world as a great intercessor before God. His life may be read in the The Prologue of Orhid which is available in the church library. December 25 (Dec 12 OS) is the feast-day of Saint Herman of Alaska, one of the patron saints of our parish. Saint Herman was one of the seven initial missionaries sent to Alaska in 1794 to teach the native Alaskans Christianity. He was a wonder-worker both during his earthly life and now in his eternal life.
The Divine Liturgy for the Feast day of the Entry of the Theotokos will be celebrated on Thursday, Dec 5 due to medical appointment in Shreveport for Fr. George on Dec 4.
Work on the decks for St. George's Inn has begun with the construction of the back deck first to be followed by the front deck.
Commercialism can easily overtake the real meaning for the time of Christmas with all of the tinsel, glitter, advertising, and shopping associated with this time of year. Struggle to remember the glorious Incarnation of our Lord Jesus. We are blessed to be on the old calendar for our celebration takes us past the distraction of Western Christmas. Remember that it is also a time for sharing the wealth that God has given us with others who are less fortunate in the spirit of Saint Nicholas. This generosity can open our hearts more fully to God's greatest gift to us, His Son our Savior.
There are members and friends of our parish who have special days this month:
Deacon Nicholas Olsen Dec 7 Birthday
Nicholas Gaffney Dec 7 Birthday
Steven Johnson Dec 13 Birthday
Deacon Nicholas Olsen Dec 19 Namesday
Nicholas Gaffney Dec 19 Namesday
Nikolai Gaffney Dec 19 Namesday
Father David Carder Dec 29 Namesday
God grant them many years!
From the fathers
God has not only chosen Mary; she has chosen Him, fulfilling the prophecy in Psalm 45:10-11, “Listen, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also, and your father's house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty.”
Joachim and Anna, fatihful to their promise, presented their long-awaited and only child to God. Zacharias—the high priest who received Mary, and the future father of John the Baptisit—played a significant role in God's plan to prepare Israel for the coming of te Messiah. He recognized Mary as the new and true Ark of the Covenant. The old ark, which was lost, had represented the spiritual presence of God among His people. Mary, the new Ark, was destined to make God physically present among His people. Recognizing this, Zacharias did the unthinkable: He brought Mary all the way into the Holy of Holies where even he, as high priest, could only go once a year—on the Day of Atonement. Mary lived there until she was twelve, spending her childhood preparing to become the dwelling place of the Messiah as the true Holy of Holies. Her divine Child was coming to save Israel and the world by reuniting man with God. The transition from the Old Testament era to the New Testament had begun.
Mary couldn't have been granted such divine intimacy in the Holy of Holies if she had stayed in the world. Joachim and Anna had the means to give the best of everything to Mary. They could have given her the biggest house, the greatest opportunities, or the most things. Instead they gave her God, the pearl of great price, worth so much more than all the world has to offer. Now, with the Nativity fast upon us, we are reminded that she wants to share this pearl with us. Excerpt from Heaven Meets Earth, Celebrating Pascha and the Twelve Feasts.
When the child was three years old, Joaching said, “Let us call the undefiled daughters of the Hebrews, and let each one take a torch, and let them be burning, in order that the child not turn back and her heart be misled out of the Temple of the Lord.” Thus they did, until they had gone up into
The priest received her, and kissing her he blessed her and said, “The Lord God has magnified your name in all generations; in you, at the end of days, will the Lord God manifest his deliverance to the children of Israel.” He set her on the third step of the altar, and the Lord God gave grace to her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her. From the Protoevangelium of James.
In her manner she showed that she was not so much presented into the temple, but that she herself entered nto the service of God of her own accord, as if she had wings, striving towards this sacred and divine love. She considered it desirable and fitting that she should enter into the temple and dwell in the Holy of Holies. St. Gregory Palamas
Today the temple has become a wedding adornment and a fair chamber for the Virgin, as it receives the living Bridal Chamber of God, pure and without spot, she who shines more brightly than all the creation...From Eve of old the transgression came upon mankind, and now from Eve's stock has flowered forth our restoration and incorruption, even the Theotokos, who is brought today into the house of God. From the Matins service of the Feast
November 2019 Newsletter
Although there are no major feast-days in this month, there are several important saints that we remember. On the calendar date of November 1 (OS Oct 19) the church celebrates the repose of Saint John of Kronstadt, one of Russia's most famous people of recent history. Saint John was born to humble parents and had a learning disability as a child. He prayed to God to help him overcome this disability and his prayers were answered. God also revealed to him that he would be a priest of His Church. He became to pre-revolutionary Russia what Saint John the Baptist was to Israel. Saint John saw what was coming upon Russia and pleaded with her people to repent and to return to Godly ways. The church where he served would be packed with so many people that an apple thrown above the crowd would not hit the floor so closely were they together. Because of his holiness, Saint John was given the gift of healing and was called to the bedside of the poor and royalty. The story of his life is available in the church library.
On November 8 (OS Oct 26) the church celebrates the feast-day of the Great Martyr Demetrios who, like the the Great Martyr George, was a Roman soldier who suffered because he would not worship the Roman idols. On November 26 (OS Nov 13) we celebrate the feast-day of Saint John Chrysostom who was one of the greatest preachers of the church. He was archbishop of Constantinople during the 4th century. Because of his God-given gift of speaking he was given the name of Chrysostom which means “golden tongue” in Greek.
Please remember that daylight savings time ends on November 3. Remember to set your clocks back one hour before you go to bed on Saturday night and you can enjoy that extra hour of sleep that you had to give up this past spring! The Thanksgiving Holiday this year will be in the Nativity fasting period begins on November 28 and continues until the feast-day of Nativity on January 7 (OS Dec 25).
Perhaps the parish can share a thanksgiving meal on the Sunday of Nov 24 outside the fasting period.
Saint Tikhon while archbishop of the Orthodox Church in this country blessed a special Thanksgiving service for the American Holiday of Thanksgiving. We will be doing this service on Wednesday evening, November 27, at 6:30PM. Join us in remembering on this day the real Source of all that we are and have, and offering heartfelt thanks for such blessings.
Several of our parish members and friends have special days this month.
John Gawrieh Nov 1 Namesday
Matrona Gaffney Nov 2 Namesday
Matushka Euphrosyne Carder Nov 6 Namesday
Theofil Carder Nov 10 Namesday
Mark Shortridge Nov 20 Birthday
Victoria Gawrieh Nov 24 Namesday
May God them many years!
From the fathers
On Thankfulness to God.
God is your creator, deliverer, supreme benefactor, and good provider. He created you just as He gives you every good thing, since without His goodness your could not live even for a minute. You do not see your Benefactor with thesse eyes, but you see the benefits He has biven you. You see the sun, the moon and His stars which illumine you. You see the fire that warms you and cooks your food. You see the food which satisfies you, you see the clothing by which your naked body is covered. You see all other countless blessings which He gave you for your needs and comfort.
Seeing, then, and receiving these benefits, remember your unseen Benefactor everywhere and always with love, and thank Him for all His benefits with a pure heart. The greatest and highest of all His blessings is that by His good will Christ, His Only-Begotten Son, came to us and redeemed us by His precious Blood and suffering from the devil, hell, and death. In this work He showed us His unspeakable goodness to us. We must, then, always gaze with faith upon this great work of god so imcomprehensible to the mind, and remember God Who so loved us unworthy ones. We must thank Him from our whole heart, worship Him, praise, hymn, and glorify Him with our heart and lips. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel/ for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David (Lk. 168-69).
You, too, should always remember this great work of God and marvel at it, and thank God from your heart, and live as it pleases God, Who came into the world to save sinners lest you offend Him with your ingratitude. He desires to save you, since He came into the world for your sake, and suffered and died in His holy flesh. You should fulfill His holy will, then, and take care for the salvation of your soul with all diligence. Be thankful to Him, and live in the world humbly, with love, meekly and patiently, as He Himself lived. He also desires the same of you.
On pleasing God
Endeavor to please God with faith and obedience, that is, do what He desires and what is pleasing to Him, and do not do what He does not desire and what is not pleasing to Him. Without obedience, what ever a man may do is not pleasing to God.
Exerpts from Journey to Heaven, Counsels on the Particular Duties and Every Christian by St. Tikon of Zadonsk.
October 2019 Newsletter
During the calendar month of October we celebrate the repose of the Apostle John the Theologian, the author of the Gospel of John, on October 9. He is also known as the Apostle of Love since he taught of the necessity of loving one another as Christ loves us.
A secondary feast of the Mother of God occurs on Oct 14. This feast-day is known as the Protection of the Theotokos. The feast commemorates an event that happened at Constantinople in the year 911 A.D. During the reign of Emperor Leo the Wise, a large army of Saracens was preparing to attack the city to conquer it. The pious people of the city reacted to the threat by turning to prayer. They thronged to the Church of Blachernae wherein was preserved the Robe and Veil of the Mother of God. There they raised their voices to Christ the Lord, to His Mother, the all-Holy Theotokos, pleading for mercy and help against the foe. Among the believers present was St. Andrew, a Fool-for-Christ, and his disciple, St. Epiphanius. Suddenly they saw a vision of the Virgin Mary surrounded by a choir of angels, prophets and apostles. “Do you see, brother, the Queen of all praying for the peace of the world,” asked St. Andrew? “ Indeed I see, father,” answered the disciple. The Holy Virgin appeared with outstretched arms, holding a veil over the city as a sign of protection, and imploring God's mercy upon the people. The inhabitants of the city heard of this vision to the two men, and were filled with joy and hope that this was a sign of deliverance. All night they prayed in the Church, while outside The Christian army fought against the enemy. The defenders emerged with a decisive victory. Since that time the Feast of the Protection of the Most-Holy Theotokos has been celebrated in the Church.
The parish is still looking for some furniture items for St. George's Inn. We need a sofa and chairs for the living room and night stands or tables for the bedrooms. If you have used furniture that is in good condition please contact Fr. George to make arrangements for moving.
We will have to suffer day-light savings time for the month of October. The time change is scheduled for Sunday, Nov 3.
Several members and friends have special days this month:
Kenny(Evgeny) Harrison Oct 8 Namesday
Kenny Harrison Oct 9 Birthday
Elias Gawrieh Oct 14 Birthday
Dennis Stone Oct 16 Namesday
Denis Kalinin Oct 16 Namesday
John Gawrieh Oct 21 Birthday
Margaret Carder Oct 21 Birthday
Tatiana Skoumbourdis Oct 22 Birthday
Matushka Paraskeva Oct 25 Birthday
Nikita Harrison Oct 26 Birthday
Matushka Paraskeva Oct 27 Namesday
May God grant them many years!
From the fathers
The Latter Years of St. John: The last years of his life, the holy Apostle John spent in strict asceticism. He ate only bread and water, did not cut his hair, and dressed in simple linen garments. Because of his old age, he did not have strength to preach the Word of God even in the environs of Ephesus. At that time he taught only the bishops of the Chrurch and inspired them to teach the people the Gospel unceasingly, and specially to keep in mind and to preach the first and principal commandment of the Gospel: the commandment of love. When the holy apostle became very weak, the blessed Jerome relates, his disciples carried him to the church, but he was no longer able to give long sermons. He then reduced his teaching to the unceasing repetition of “Little children, love one another.” One day, when his disciples asked him why he repeated this to them incessantly, John replied with the following word: “This is the Lord's commandment; and if ye keep it, it is enough.”
The repose of St. John: ...John came out of the house and assembled seven of his disciples and said to us: 'Take spades in your hands and follow me.' So we did as we were instructed and followed him outside the city to a cerain place, where he said: 'Sit down.' He then went a little apart from us to where it was quiet and began to pray. It was very early in the morning; the sun had not quite risen. After his prayer he said to us: 'Dig with your spades a cross-shaped trench as long as I am tall.' So we did it while he prayed. After he had finished his prayer, he laid himself in the trench we had dug, and then said to me: 'Prochorus my son, thou wilt go to Jerusalem. That is where thou must end thy life.' He then gave us instructions and embraced us, saying: 'Take some earth, my mother earth, and cover me.' So we embraced again and, taking some earth, covered him only up to his knees. Once more, he embraced us saying: 'Take some more earth and cover me up to the neck.' So we embraced him again and then took some more earth and covered him up to his neck. Then he said to us: 'Bring a thin veil and place it on my face, and embrace me again for the last time, for ye shall not see me any more in this life.' So we embraced the apostle again, grief-stricken. As he was sending us off in peace, we, lamenting bitterly, embraced his whole body. The sun rose just then, and he surrendered his spirit.
“We returned to the city and were asked: 'Where is our teacher?'. So we explained what had just occurred in great detail. They begged us that we show them the site. Therefore, we went back to the grave with the brethren, but John was not there. Only his shoes were left behind. Then we rembembered the words of the Lord to the Apostle Perer: 'If I will that he tarry until I come, what is that to thee?' And we all glorified God, the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, to Whom is due glory, honor, and worship, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Each year, on the eighth day of May, a fragrant myrrh issues forth from the grave and, at the prayers of the holy apostle, the sick are healed thereby, to the honor of God Who is glorified in the Trinity unto the ages of ages. Amen. Excerpts from The Lives of the Holy Apostles from the Menology of St. Dimitri of Rostov and The Great Synaxarites of the Orthodox Church translated by Reader Isaac Lambertsen and Holy Apostles Convent
August 2019 Newsletter
The calendar month of August contains two of the twelve major Feast Days of the liturgical year. The first of these special days occurs on August 19 (Aug 6 OS). It is the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ. “And He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matt. 17:2). The event is a manifestation of God to man in that our Lord revealed His Divinity to Peter, James and John through a display of His uncreated, divine energy. During this event Moses and the Prophet Elijah appeared also. Christ revealed Himself as the Messiah and the Holy Trinity made an appearance through the voice of the Father saying, “This is My beloved Son' (Matt 17:5), the presence of the Son, and the revelation of the Holy Spirit in the form of a luminous cloud. Moses represents the Law and those who have died and Elijah represents the Prophets and—since he did not die—all those who are alive in Christ.
The Transfiguration also calls us to look forward to Christ's Second Coming, when all of nature's original beauty will be restored. The faithful brings grapes, apples, and other fruits to church to be blessed and shared as a sign of this final transfiguration of everything. Grapes are a perfect symbol, growing, and changing colors as they ripen in the light. Also, in a beautiful series of gift exchanges between God and His people, certain grapes are turned into wine and offered to Him; then this sine, along with the altar bread, is turned into His Body and Blood by the action of the Holy Spirit and offered back to us. In the Holy Mysteries, the fruits of nature have become God. The Gospel proclaims that this kind of transfiguration is our destiny as well: “The the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt 13:43).
The second of these special days is that of the Dormition of the Mother of God or her physical death in the world on Aug 28 (Aug 15OS). The Theotokos was fully human and therefore subject as we are to physical death. Her departure from this world was foretold to her by an angel and sh requested that she be able to see the Apostles before her repose as the Apostles were dispersed by this time. The Apostles were brought to her bedside as by clouds with the exception of Thomas.
“The Apostles said all these things to the holy Mother of God, why they had come, and in what way; and she stretched her hands to heaven and prayed, saying: I adore, and praise, and glorify Your much to be praised name, O Lord, because You have looked upon the lowliness of Your handmaiden, and because You that are mighty have done great things for me; and, behold, all generations shall count me blessed. And after the prayer she said to the apostles: Cast incense, and pray. And when they had prayed, there was thunder from heaven, and there came a fearful voice, as if of chariots; and, behold, a multitude of a host of angels and powers, and a voice, as if of the Son of man, was heard, and the seraphim in a circle round the house where the holy, spotless Mother of God and virgin was lying, so that all who were in Bethlehem beheld all the wonderful things, and came to Jerusalem and reported all the wonderful things that had come to pass. (From the Apocryphal Book of St. John the Theologian).
The Apostles buried her on the site where her parents had been buried. Three days later the Apostle Thomas appeared and in his sorrow requested to see her body. The grave was opened and her body was no longer there. Her soul and body had been taken by her Son to be with Him in heaven. From there she is a constant intercessor and helper when we call upon her. She is proof of the promised Resurrection.
The fasting period related to the Dormition of the Theotokos begins on Aug 14 and ends on Aug 28.
As school will be starting this month for some of our members we will read the prayers for the beginning of the school year following Divine Liturgy on Aug 11.
Several of our members and friends have special days this month:
Elias Gawrieh Aug 2 Namesday
Magdalena(Fran) Presley Aug 4 Namesday
Fr David Carder Aug 11 Birthday
Marina deFligue Aug 15 Birthday
Subdeacon George Gawrieh Aug 21 Birthday
Matushka Euphrosyne Carder Aug 24 Birthday
Tatiana Stone Aug 25 Birthday
Maximus Olsen Aug 26 Birthday
from the Fathers
...Why did the Lord take only three disciples onto Tabor, and not all? Because Judas was not worthy to behold the divine glory of the Teacher, Whom he would betray; and the Lord did not want to leave him alone at the foot of the mountain, so that the betrayer would not, because of this, justify his betrayal. Why was our Lord transfigured on a mountain and not in a valley? So as to teach us two virtues: love of labor and godly thoughts—for climbing to the heights requires labor, and the heights themselves represent the elevation of our thoughts to the things of God. Why was our Lord transfigured at night? Because the night is more suitable than the day for prayer and godly thoughts; and the night, by its darkness, conceals all the beauty of the earth, and reveals the beauty of the starry heavens. Why did Moses and Elias appear? In order to destroy the Jewish fallacy that Christ was one of the prophets—Elias or Jeremiah or some other. That is why He appeared as a King, above the prophets, and that is why Moses and Elias appeared as His servants. Until then, our Lord had manifested His divine power many times to the disciples; but on Mount Tabor He manifested His Divine Nature. This vision of His Divinity, and the hearing of the heavenly witness to His being the Son of God, must have served the disciples in the days of the Lord's passion—in the strengthening of a steadfast faith in Him and in His final victory. Commentary on the Transfiguration from The Prologue of Ohrid by St. Nikolai Velimirovic.
The struggle against every sin is an unfailing necessity for all Christians who wish to be true Christians and to receive eternal salvation in Jesus Christ, lest they allow it to take hold of them...
They must listen to God in Whom they believe, and not sin; they must live unto God, and not unto sin. This is demanded by that holy Baptism through which they were renewed to the holy Christian life. This is demanded by the vows made at Baptism, in which they vowed to labor for the Lord in faith and in truth. This is requred by the work of salvation, since holy Baptism avails nothing to those who transgress and do not keep their vows made at Baptism, as they are false and have lied to God. Consider these things, O Christian! A Christian is not known by saying, Lord, Lord (cf. Mt. 7:21), but by struggling against all sin...a true Christian is he who wages incessant war against sin...
Excerpts from Journey to Heaven by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk.
July 2019 Newsletter
The calendar month of July begins in the in the middle of the Apostles' fasting period. On July 7 the Church celebrates the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. On July 12 we celebrate the Feast Day of the Apostles Peter and Paul. This Feast Day ends the Apostles' Fasting period and we resume the normal fast days of Wednesday and Friday. This will continue until August 14 when we begin the two week Dormition Fast.
Other important days this month include the feast day of the Holy Royal Martyrs of Russia on July 17 and the feast day of Holy Great Prince Vladimir of Rus on July 28.
Our parish offers a special note of thanks for the gift of an icon from the Seeker of the Lost Parish. In June Fr. David Carder and Matushka Euphrosyne presented our Parish with a hand-painted icon of St. Nicholas Planas. St. Nicholas Planas was a Greek priest renowned for his humility, simplicity, piety, and faithfulness to his priestly calling. He is and has been a tremendous influence on many people throughout the world. A book on his life is available in the Church library.
Congratulations to Matrona Gaffney upon graduation from high school this year. She has received a scholarship to begin studying for a nursing career this fall. May God bless her efforts.
Some of our members and friends have special days this month:
Matrona Gaffney Jul 2 Birthday
Maximus Olsen Jul 5 Birthday
Victoria Gawrieh Jul 7 Birthday
Janet Gawrieh Jul 10 Namesday
Elizaveta Shkurina Jul 18 Namesday
Elisabeth Olsen Jul 18 Namesday
Theofil Carder Jul 23 Birthday
Ksenia Couch Jul 24 Birthday
Marina deFligue Jul 30 Namesday
From the fathers
Meekness and kindness adorned our saints and gave them strength and understanding to not return evil for evil. When Emperor Constantius, the son of the Emperor Constantine the Great, became ill in Antioch, he summoned St. Spyridon to offer prayers for him. St. Spyridon, in the company of Triphyllius, his deacon, departed Cyprus and arrived in Antioch before the imperial palace. Spyridon was clad in poor clothing. He wore a simple woven cap on his head, in his hand was a staff from a palm tree, and on his breast he bore an earthern vessel containing oil from the lamp that burned before the Precious Cross (which at that time was the custom of Christians in Jerusalem to wear). Dressed in this way and, in addition, exhausted by fasting, prayer, and the long journey, in no way did the saint betray his rank and dignity. When he wished to set foot in the imperial palace, one of the emperor's servants, thinking him to be an ordinary beggar, struck him with his fist on the cheek. The meek and kind saint turned the other cheek to him. When, with great difficulty, he succeeded in reaching the emperor, Spyridon touched the head of the emporer recoved.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof aare the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12).
It sometines appears to man that the way of the godless is right, for he sees that the godless man obtains riches and succeeds. Oh, if it were only given to him to see the end of that path! He would be horrified and would never tread on that path.
If the end of a path is destruction, can it be the right way? Therefore, O Man, do not say that a way is right if you do not see its end. You ask: how can I, a weak and shortsighted man, preceive the end of a long path? In two ways: by reading Holy Scripture within the experience of the Orthodox Church, and by observing the end of the path of life of those around you and who die before you. However, the first way is the more reliable one, and if you adhere to it, konw that you will not stumble into the night of eternal death.
Only that path is right which is shown by God as right. All other ways that appear right to your mind, but which do not coincide with the way of God, are wrong and deadly. Behold, even the beasts have their paths, but would you travel those paths if they seemed right to you? Do not go, for in the end you will fall into the hungry jaws of the beasts. And the path shown by God, even if it appears wrong to you, is right—therefore travel by it. The path of God occasionally seems wrong to us because of our sins. If we were without sin and if our minds were not distorted by sin, it would not be possible for us, even for a moment, to conceive that another path is right except God's path. To a distorted mind, many wrong paths seem right, and the only right path seems wrong.
O All-seeing Lord, our Guide, correct ours minds, that we not be detained on false paths. O Jesus, Thou art the only Way, Truth and Life, and that we invent apart from Thee is the wrong way, a lie and death.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen. The above excerpts are from the Reflection and Homily for June 13 from The Prologue of Ohrid by St. Nikolai Vlimirovic.
June 2019 Newsletter
The calendar month of June contains two of the twelve major liturgical feast days: the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ on June 6 and the Descent of the Holy Spirit/Pentecost on June 16.
“And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.” (Luke 24:50-53). For forty days, since His Resurrection, Christ had been appearing to His disciples. During that time He ate with them, taught them, and testified to the accomplishment of His Crucifixion and proved the reality of His Resurrection. Now they stand watching as the Son of God ascends, raising earth up to meet heaven. As they kept their eyes raised to heaven, two angels appeared to them to tell them that Christ would return in the same manner. The apostles were to follow His instructions and wait to receive the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem.
The Feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit/Pentecost follows fifty days after the Feast of the Resurrection and is celebrated on Sunday, June 16. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I no not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on Me: Of righteousness, because I go to MY Father, and ye shall see Me no more: Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot hear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself: but whatsoever He shall hear, the shall He speak: And He will shew you things to come.” (John 16:7-13).
Ten days after Christ's Ascension, His followers gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Old Testament Feast of Pentecost, which recalled God's giving of the Law to His people. The apostles had remained together in obedience to Christ's instructions to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4).
This gift of the Holy Spirit completes the revelation of the Holy Trinity to the world. This day is also considered the Birthday of the Church and it continues until this day and is eternal as it is the Body of Christ. The week following Pentecost is fast-free. On the evening of Pentecost we serve “Kneeling Vespers”. At this service we begin making prostrations in church which was set aside at Pascha.
This service is done at 1:30PM on Pentecost Sunday. After this we begin our daily prayers with the invocation of the Holy Spirit, “O Heavenly King, Spirit of Truth...”
The Apostles” Fast begins on June 24 this year and ends on July 12 with the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul. This time of summer Lent is not as strict as Great Lent in that fish is allowed on the weekends and at various days during the fast. See the attached calendar for the other days.
The Parish Feast Day of All Saints of America is celebrated on Sunday, June 30. This coincides with the Sunday of All Saints of Russia.
Luba Harrison is in Russia at this time and Victoria Gawrieh is recovering from an operation on her arm. Please keep them in your prayers.
The Feast of Ascension will be celebrated at Seeker of the Lost Mission in Little Rock on June 6. There will be no service for this Feast at All Saints of America Parish.
Several members and friends of our parish have special days this month:
Constantine Skoumbourdis June 3 Namesday
Elizveta Shkurina June 4 Birthday
Anton Khudoley June 7 Birthday
Fr George June 9 Birthday
Monica Olsen June 28 Namesday
May God grant them many years!
From the fathers
...In the old days, the Holy Spirit was called the “Provider”. Just as in this corporeal, material world the person who is our breadwinner is our provider, so in the spiritual life we cannot mange without the grace of the Holy Spirit. One must try to live a Christian life. If a person does not live this way, he loses contact with grace, is deprived of the all-powerful help of the Holy Spirit, and a dark, diabolical, evil spirit comes to him. The conjurers, magicians, and wizards whom we dread and fear serve these powers....
...the Holy Hierarch Theophan of Vyshensk calls us to occupy ourselves with spiritual activity, meaning unceasing prayer, so that evil spirits will be unable to approach us. Unceasing prayer is our weapon, our spiritual might, our foundation, and our food. As often as possible we must pray, “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner, for these words are filled with the power of grace, and through them, independently of ourselves, the Holy Spirit comes to abide in a person's heart. Many of the holy fathers teach us this. The heart cannot remain empty and inactive. It is always in motion, either toward the spiritual or toward the sinful. When we forget about prayer—and we do often forget-- the spirit of darkness enters our soul....
The acquisition of the grace of the Holy Spirit must become the chief purpose of our life, my dear ones. As earth cannot be fruitful without water and turns into lump of stone, so we cannot develop spiritually without God's grace. As the holy fathers write, the Holy Spirit is our comforter, our joy, our provider, and our hope.
We must go ever onward, constantly and without stopping, and let our manna from heaven and our daily bread be the virtues, the first of which is repentance...Repentance is the basis and foundation of our salvation.
The second virtue is to struggle with passions and vices. By the sweat of our brow, we must constantly work on cleansing our hearts from passions, and struggle with anger, pride, self-love, and pampering the flesh, conquering them through the might of God. The third virtue consist of enriching oneself with good works: humility, meekness, and temperance.
The last is churching. We must live a churchly life. It is impossible to be without the Church. In our midst, among us believing Christians, you can always find people who go to church from time to time. Yet, this must be our breath, our repose from life's hardship, our curative spring, the most important thing in our lives. For here, in the Church, Jesus Christ Himself is present, shining like the sun in the divine services and the sacraments. Outside, you will find nothing like this. In the Church as nowhere else, the grace of the Holy Spirit abides. We must train ourselves to visit God's temple as often as possible. Frequently, we hear people saying, “I don't want to go to church; I'd best pray at home.” Yet, it is here that an invaluable treasure is hidden: The divine manna of prayer, the sacraments, the divine services, and most importantly, the Body and Blood of Christ of which we partake. Excerpts from a sermon on the Holy Spirit from A Beacon of Hope, the teaching of Father Ilarion.
May 2019 Newsletter
The calendar month of May begins at mid-week of Bright Week, the week following Pascha. Bright Week is a fast free week but we go back to regular Wednesday and Friday fasting on May 8. the Church celebrates Mid-Pentecost on May 22. This a point half way between Pascha and Pentecost. Throughout this month we begin our prayers with “Christ is risen from the dead.” replacing the invocation of the Holy Spirit, “O Heavenly King,...” until the Feast of Ascension. From the Feast of Ascension until the Feast of Pentecost we begin our prayers with the Troparia of Ascension. Because of the late date of Pascha this year both the Feast of Ascension and the Feast of Pentecost occur during the calendar month of June. On May 7 the Church blesses the grave sites of our reposed brothers and sisters in Christ.
We express our appreciation to the members of Seeker of the Lost mission in Little Rock for their assistance with Holy Week and Pascha this past week. Their help with services was a great relief for Fr. George and Matushka Paraskeva. God bless them for their service and all who contributed to our Paschal Celebration.
Father Deacon Nicholas Olsen was with us on Holy Thursday and Holy Friday. We hope to see him more often in the future.
Now that Pascha is past and the weather has improved the parish can start construction on the decks for St. Georges Inn. There is also some repair work on the Church building that will be done. The building fund is being replenished by generous donations every month. The septic system that St. John's building and St. Mildred's guest house use had to be repaired at a cost of $1350.00 so that depleted the building fund somewhat. All donations are accepted.
The parish is slowly furnishing St. George's Inn. We now have three beds, washer and dryer, and kitchen ware. Thanks for all these contributions.
Congratulations to Daria, Ksenia Couch's daughter, and her husband on the birth of their daughter, Vasilisa. May God bless them.
Several members and friends of our parish have special days this month:
Daria Zharskaya May 4 Birthday
Fr. George May 6 Namesday
Subdn. George Gawrieh May 6 Namesday
Monica Olsen May 17 Namesday
Monica Olsen May 30 Birthday
May God grant them many years!
From the fathers
Elijah the Tishbite (Prophet Elijah) once argued with the priests of Baal concerning the worship of the One True God. In order to resolve this disagreement, Elijah and the priests of Baal agreed to call on their respective deities to call down fire from heaven to consume their offerings. Baal's priests prepared their sacrifice for burning and began to call on Baal from the morning until the noontime, exclaiming, “Baal, hear us!” But there was no answer, though they hopped around their altar in the their customary way. At midday Elijah began to laugh at them, saying, “Cry out with a loud voice, for he is a god: for either he is always meditating, or he is too busy, or preoccupied with other business. Perhaps he is sleeping and has need to be awakened from his nap” (3 Kingdoms 18:27). And so they screamed more loudly and began to cut themselves with knives and spears until they bled, but it was all in vain. Midday passed, and they continued to thrash about until the evening with no success.
Then Elijah told them to move aside so that he could perform his sacrifice to the Lord before all the assembled people. He made an altar out of twelve stones (the number of the tribes of Israel), laid weed on it, and placed a prepared sacrificial ox on top of the wood. Then commanded all of his preparation to be doused with a great deal of water, all the while exclaiming aloud to God,
O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, answer me, O Lord, answer me this day with fire, and let this people know You are the God of Israel, and I am Your servant; and for Your sake I do all these works. Hear me, O Lord, hear me with fire, and let these people know You are the Lord God, so as turn the heart of this people back. (3 Kingdoms 18:36-37)
And immediately God sent fire from heaven and the sacrifice, though wet all through, was consumed.
It often happens that Christians labor and suffer during services in church. They mortify their bodies with fasting, they come to church often, and they perform other feats of asceticism. All this is good, but we rarely receive fire from heaven, rarely do we burn with true eagerness to fulfill the will of God and to completely avoid contradictions between our will and desires and those of God. How rarely do we speak these words-even when we do, our heart does not participate—Thy will be done, Lord! It often happens that we sacrifice this or that thing for the glory of God, and invite others to do the same, and yet we receive little benefit from it. This is because we do not bring—for all our external gifts—the true sacrifice of our will and desires to God's holy will. We do not even care about doing this.
Two people once asked St Macarius to teach them how to pray. In answer, he said to the, “Do not use many words in your personal prayers. Instead, raise your hand to heaven and repeat often: 'Lord God, let it be as You will and; as it pleases You.' He knows what we need better than we do.”
This is an excellent instruction on how to pray. St. Pachomius the Great prayed in the same way. He only asked the Lord for one thing: that he do the will of God in all his actions.
Such uncompromising commitment to God's will is the best and most pleasing offering we can give to God, for all other sacrifices—abstinence from food or drink, charitable donation, patient endurance of insults—are partial. However, by completely committing himself to the will of God, a person can give himself as a gift to God. Then God becomes his true Master, overseeing him personally, managing all the things and events in his life. Excerpts from The Sunflower, Conforming the Will of Man to the Will of God by St John of Tobolsk
April 2019 Newsletter
The calendar month of April contains three major feast days of the liturgical calendar; Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos, Palm Sunday, and Pascha. The Annunciation celebrates the revelation of the conception of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. St. Luke records this event in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos occurs and Sunday, April 7, this year.
Palm Sunday commemorates the Entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. Many people were in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. On the day before Palm Sunday the Lord had miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead and His fame had spread throughout the city so there were those who believed Him to be the Messiah and those who wanted to make Him king. His entry in to the city was greeted with jubilation by some and mistrust by others. He enters not as a king in a royal chariot but humbly on a donkey fulfilling the sayings of the prophets. Palm Sunday ends the season of Great Lent.
After Palm Sunday the Church enters Holy Week following our Lord through His physical suffering in preparation for the joyous Resurrection of Pascha. See the Holy Week schedule for services. Some things change during Holy Week. After Holy Wednesday we no longer say the prayer of St. Ephraim daily as we have throughout Great Lent. The liturgical color changes to black from the Lenten purple color. This somber black color remains until Vespers of Holy Saturday.
The Holy Unction service is scheduled for Holy Wednesday. Since this is a forgiveness service the Church says that confession should be made prior to receiving the anointing of the Holy Oil. Father George will be available to hear confessions before the service which begins at 7:00PM.
Following Pascha there is a fast-free “Bright Week” where we continue the Paschal celebration. We enter the time when we do not make prostrations in the Church nor do we invoke the Holy Spirit when we begin our daily prayers. Following the Resurrection of Christ the holy Apostles were awaiting the descent of the Holy Spirit as Christ had promised them so the Church awaits with them. So we do not say “O Heavenly King, Comforter....” but replace the invocation with “Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death be death and upon those in the tombs bestowing Life” saying this three times. This is done until Thomas Sunday, the first Sunday after Pascha. From thence we say only “Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death” in our prayers until the Feast of the Ascension on May 17.
The members of Seeker of the Lost Mission in Little Rock plan to celebrate Pascha with our parish this year. This is a great blessing for our parish.
Prior to Pascha we always try to clean up the Church inside and outside so all help is appreciated. Donations of flowers to decorate for Pascha are always welcome.
The Holy Week schedule is always a strain for the singers and chanters since we have so few and the services are long. Help with the reading and chanting of these services is very much appreciated. For those who need the Sacrament of Confession prior to Pascha please schedule with Fr. George prior to 8:00PM on Holy Saturday. After that time it is difficult for the priest to be available for confession due to necessary preparation for the upcoming Paschal service beginning at 11:30PM.
Several of our members and friends have special days this month:
Svetlana Weber April 2 Namesday
Constantin Skoumbourdis April 5 Birthday
Elizabeth Olsen April 10 Birthday
Maria Silva April 14 Namesday
God grant them many years!
Holy Week Schedule
Palm Sunday Bridegroom Service 6:30PM
Holy Monday Bridegroom Service 6:30PM
Holy Tuesday Bridegroom Service 6:30PM
Holy Wednesday Holy Unction 7:00PM
Holy Thursday Vespers/Liturgy 9:00AM
Matins-Twelve Gospels 7:00PM
Holy Friday Royal Hours 8:00AM
Holy Saturday Vespers/Liturgy 10:00AM
Midnight Office 11:30PM
Pascha Matins 12:00AM
Divine Liturgy Following Matins
Agape Vespers 1:30PM
From the Fathers
My God, My god, why have You forsaken Me? (Matt 27:46)
Such was the cry of the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, nailed on the cross for the sins of the world, and, consequently, for our sin, brothers and sisters....He cried according to His human nature, which had weaknesses, but not sin. But how could God the Father have abandoned His only begotten Son, Who had sent Him to the world to save it? The divinity was, and remains throughout the ages, inseparable from the human nature of Jesus Christ. This abandonment, beloved brethren, means that the human nature in Jesus Christ was left to experience all the torments, all of the terrible sufferings on the cross, all of the horrible, deadly afflictions he experienced while still in the garden of Gethsemane before being arrested by the mob of villains led by Judas Iscariot...
Imagine then the bodily torments, the sorrow that was felt by the most just and all-loving sensitive soul of the God-Man, Who suffered the punishment for all the sins of men, for the sins of Adam and Eve and all of their descendants without exception, meaning, for your and our sins as well! And we, brethren, are greater sinners and guilty of countless punishments for our countless transgressions. Judge, I say, judge how sharp, bitter and pungent the sufferings on the cross were, what sorrow the Lamb of God, Who took upon Himself the sins of the world, felt in His soul, how difficult it was for Him to be forsaken by God, that is, to have His human nature experience all of the bitter sufferings in His soul, all of the overwhelming, limitless, terrible affliction. After this you will understand in what condition was the soul of the God-Man nailed to the cross, when He cried out: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Yes, His soul was together with His Most-Pure Body in terrible conditions, in unimaginable and indescribable suffering.
Perceive from this, man, whoever you may be, the bitterness, absurdity, dishonor, vileness, madness, ugliness, agony, and the deadliness of sin. Perceive how it is contrary to our nature, incompatible with our divine nature, created according to God's image; and how the All-holy, All-perfect, and All-good Divinity despises it, and after this judge, all of you, how we should relate to sin that entices, defiles, and perverts our nature, corrupting it and plunging it into eternal disgrace, eternal sorrow, and eternal torment, if we do not despise it, that is, sin, with all our soul, if we do not repent of our transgressions, if we do not turn away completely from sin. Imagine, picture what would have happened to us if the Only Begotten Son of God had not suffered for our sins, if He had not satisfied God's justice, and if God had left us forever without His grace? A simple thought, just the idea of this chills the blood, and makes our soul tremble. If only I, and all sinners, always remembered, specially at the times when we are tempted by sin, how God forsakes unrepentant sinners, then all of us would flee from sin more than we would flee from snakes, from blood-thirsty beasts, from cruel enemies. Then there would be many more people among those who are saved, and the earth would not be struck by terrible disasters because of the sins of men: bad harvests, floods, devastating earthquakes, affecting thousands of human lives, epidemic diseases, damaged crops, destructive fires.
Then the earth would be God' paradise, abounding with truth and all of the natural gifts of God. Then there would be peace and security on the earth; there would not terrible atrocities...Oh, how the world is now overflowing with transgressors and transgressions! How much longer will this sinful world survive, this earth, the gathering of every abomination, this habitation of sin, stained with the blood of pure and innocent victims? Has the time not come for the universal purification by fire? Yes, the time is certainly at hand. If the Apostles during their own time already spoke of it proximity, then we can even more readily speak of the proximity of the end of time. Brothers and sisters! While we still have time, let us approach the Savior of the world with;ardent repentance, and with love and tears let us kiss His woulds, which He suffered for us. Let us love truth, let us love mercy, so that we may be shown mercy. Amen. Excerpts from Season of Repentance, Lenten Homilies of Saint John of Kronstadt, a homily for Holy Friday.
March 2019 Newsletter
The Great Lenten fast begins on March 11 this year. Sunday, March 3, is meatfare Sunday after which we drop meats from our diet. The following Sunday, Mar 10, is cheesefare Sunday right before Great Lent begins. On this Sunday we celebrate Forgiveness Vespers following our meal in St. John's Hall. Wine and oil are allowed on the weekends and on several special days during the fasting period. The restriction on oil applies to olive oil. With the later production of vegetable oils these oils are allowed during the fasting period. This is analogous to the restriction on butter versus margarine since the quality and taste of the two(olive oil and butter) cannot be compared to the imitation(vegetable oil and margarine).
During this month we celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great on Sundays. The music for this Liturgy is somewhat different from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the quiet prayers that the priest recites are longer. You might experience some quiet moments during these Lenten Liturgies. The weekly Liturgy is that of the Presanctified Divine Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great. This Lenten Liturgy starts with Vespers and finishes with partaking of the Presanctified Host to give us strength during this fasting time. The Presanctified Liturgy is served at 6:30 PM. One should prepare themselves by the appropriated pre-Communion prayers and by abstaining from food and drink from noon of the day if they desire to partake of the Holy Mysteries.
On March 9 the Church celebrates the 1st and 2nd findings of the Head of St. John the Baptist.
Congratulations to the newly elected officers of the parish from the Business meeting on Feb 17. May God bless their service.
Congratulations to Mark Shortridge upon his baptism into the Holy Orthodox Church. Also congratulations to Symeon, the son of Andrew and Kati Sawyer upon his baptism as well. We were blessed to have Fr. David Carder perform Symeon's baptism.
As weather permits and funds are available the parish will begin the installation of front and rear porches to St. John's Inn. The parish building fund is still recovering from the unexpected expenses of last year. Donations to that fund are appreciated.
Several members and friends have special days this month:
Ricky Harrison Mar 3 Birthday
Luba Harrison Mar 10 Birthday
Janet Gawrieh Mar 10 Birthday
Maria Silva Mar 21 Birthday
God grant them many years!
From the Fathers
Thanks be to the Lord God for having vouchsafed us to celebrate so great and sacred a time as the Holy Forty-Day Fast...Today, we, too, begin to conquer our passions and vices, that we may be spiritualized. Of course, this is a difficult labor—it is not easy to fast for forty days...The holy fathers said—and we need to remember this well—that neither virtue, nor fasting, nor prostrations, nor sorrowing,nor our standing in prayer will save us by themselves. It is Christ alone who saves us. This is what we lay as the foundation of our fast: living in Christ, in faith. We must desire Christ more than the air we breathe. He comes through our spiritual activity, through union with Him. Do not look for Him millions of miles away: He is here; He is closer that the air, closer than the oxygen. Excerpted from a homily on the first Sunday of Great Lent from A Beacon of Hope, The Teaching of Father Ilarion.
Those who desire eternal joys partake little of earthly ones, says St Gennadius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and yet our earthly joys are almost uninterrupted. Many of us live as if we don't have to die and give an account ou our lives. What does this mean? Doesn't this happen because such people think that all they have to do is to repent just before they die and they will receive a full pardon? Of course, God does not turn away those who come to Him even at the eleventh hour, that is, if they turn to Him with all their hearts. However, if your heart was far away from God for the longest part of your life, do you think that you will be able to move it toward God, to arouse in you a feeling of repentance before you die? Oh, Brothers! It will be exactly then that your heart will be set against you, for your perdition. Many times have I seen how difficult it is for some to listen to an exhortation to repentance, and how those who never thought about correcting themselves, and were not able to repent during their lives, how they are lost during confession before their departure from this life. No, Brothers! A Christian ending is a reward for true Christians. Repent as much as you can during your lifetime, and then you will meet a peaceful death with sincere repentance.
Therefore prepare yourselves for the judgment, for the terrible judgment, for the righteous judgment, for the one and final judgment, after which there will be either eternal blessedness or unending torment. Do not be surprised that I speak so emphatically. Truth is royal, it has the right to speak emphatically about the preparation for the judgment. When we are clearly confronted with the eternal perdition of souls due to carelessness and negligence, then we must act decisively, and then even more decisively than at other times when we must speak the truth. When people see that a man faces a clear risk of death by fire, or by drowning in water, then in such cases do they not act with all determination? Yes, because in the case of indecision on the part of those who want to save the man who is perishing, he could die at any moment. In the same way we must, with great determination and fear of the coming judgment, save any from the fire, and perhaps many people are but on step away from it. Brother! Think, maybe this night your soul will be required of you (Luke 12:20), and you will be in hell, in torments...all in flames. Thus, be prepared for the judgment, start preparing today. Work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day: the night is coming when no one can work (John 9:4). We have worked for vanity long enough. It is time to look upon our poor soul with testing eyes.
Go to Church, weep over your sins, await together with Her, with great fear, the day of judgment.
The Church continually thinks about the judgment: morning, day and night; every day, early and late, the Church reminds Her children of this great day, which will decide the fate of the entire human race; and yet Her children are busy with thoughts of how pleasant it is for them to turn their heads for a few minutes, to cheer their hearts with the joys of earthly passions. The Lord, the Truth, the Life thunders with His voice about how His judgment will be accomplished without fail, and commands us to watch and pray always in spirit (Mark 13:33); Luke 21:36), in order that we may avoid the terrible fate of the condemned, the Apostles assure us that the Judge is standing at the door (James 5:9) ...and we act as if we don't even want to hear any of this. Excerpts from Season of Repentance, Lenten Homilies of St. John of Kronstadt for Meatfare Sunday, The Last Judgment.
The calendar month of February contains one of the major twelve Feast Days of the liturgical year, The Meeting of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the temple. On this day, Feb 2/15, the church celebrates the forty-day dedication of the first-born child, our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the Law given to Moses (Ex. 13:1-2, 14-15) by the Lord Himself. And so Mary and Joseph came after forty days of her purification to the Temple to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24).
Now there was a righteous and devout man named Simeon who had been guided to the Temple by the Holy Spirit. Simeon had been assigned to translate the Book of Isaiah from Hebrew to Greek in the year 270 B.C. When he came to the passage saying that a virgin should conceive and bear a son Simeon started to change the word virgin to young woman. An angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him not to do so and that Simeon would live to see this happen. Simeon's appearance in the temple was a fulfillment of this saying. (Note: Simeon must have been about 300 years old at this point).
St. Simeon, representing the Old Testament, took the Christ Child in his arms, and the Old and the New Testaments stood together: the Old, departing, held in its arms and blessed the New. Simeon was granted more than had been granted to any other man before him; he held the Almighty God in his arms and to him were revealed both the Glory and the Way of the Cross of his God: “for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:30).
As in ancient times today we bring our children at the fortieth day to be presented to the Lord and we bind them over to God. Baptized and sanctified by grace, our children, by being made members of the Church, take their first steps upon the way of grace and the way of the Cross that lies before those who would follow Christ.
On Sunday, Feb 17, we begin the first of the three preparatory Sundays leading up to Great Lent which begins on Feb 19.
The annual parish business meeting is scheduled for Sunday, Feb 17, at 1:30PM. The parish reviews the previous year and set new goals for the coming year. Mark your calendars and plan to be there for the meeting.
Several of our members and friends have special days this month:
Maximus Olsen Feb 3 Namesday
Spyridon Murphy Feb 4 Birthday
Ksenia Couch Feb 6 Namesday
Ksenia Fitzgerald Feb 6 Namesday
Theodore Morcan Feb 21 Namesday
Theodora Morcan Feb 24 Namesday
Andrew Sawyer Feb 25 Birthday
Nikolai Gaffney Feb 27 Birthday
May God grant them many years!
from the Fathers
...”Be of good courage and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God; for the Lord will do what is good in His sight”(2 Kings 10:12). It is a very laudable and honorable thing to have a courageous heart in all things, a heart that greets every event with trust in the goodness and providence of God. For it often happens, even with wise men, experienced military commanders, and holy men-- all of whom usually act wisely and courageously—that their intentions do not reach a good end. But such men ascribe any lack of success to the lack of God's blessing on their intention, and so they greet their lack of success with joy, because they did not act in opposition to God's will.
All of this is confirmed by the Preacher, who said, “I returned and saw under the sun that: The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor wealth to men of understanding, nor favor to men of knowledge; for time and chance will happen to them all” (Eccles 9:11).
What the Preacher calls “chance” is not accidental to God, merely to our human perspective. Is it not strange that even a wise man can make mistakes in his intentions; however, we often consider this to be a misfortune and ascribe our failure to some evil fate or spirit. Truly there are events and phenomena in the world that do not depend on human reason, whether they are good or bad. God's power, foreknowledge, and providence knows of them pre-eternally and foresees all the circumstances of their appearance. God makes these events with His wise direction of the cosmos. However, these ways and paths are invisible to us, and often the means chosen by God to achieve His goals are incomprehensible to us until they are accomplished. Only afterward can we come to understand God's care and providence for the human race.
God occasionally repeats these unexpected events—either merciful or threatening to us depending on the manner of our life—in order to remind us not to ascribe anything to our own efforts, reason, or work ethic. Instead, He wants us to pay attention every moment to out inner spiritual life and become convinced that everything in the cosmos occurs only by the goodwill or permission of God, in accordance to our good or evil deeds, which will determine either our blessedness or our perdition.
The ancient pagan nations honored chance (fortune) greatly. They even burned incense to it. Now, in the light of the Holy Gospel, what is chance? It is nothing but a pernicious delusion of the mind, the very spawn of hell! The light of the grace of the Gospels has shown us the true reason for our prosperity and our misfortune (i.e., our sinfulness, consisting of breaking the commandments of God and the laws of the state). By its nature, sin is a lie, an nothingness, the work of the father of lies and those unfortunate people who are deluded by him (see John 8:44). Everything else in the world—prosperity or misfortune—occurs by the foresight and providence of God for our eternal salvation.
The all-holy will of God moves all the works of mankind like a wheel that spins unevenly. Sometimes it moves fast, sometimes slowly; in this manner, all unexpected events that seem to us to occur by blind chance in reality direct us wisely to the best of intentions. “I am the Lord God, and there is no other. I am He who prepared light and made darkness, who makes peace and creates troublesome things” (Isaiah 45:-7). Excerpts from The Sunflower-Conforming the Will of Man to the Will of God by St. John of Tobolsk.
January 2019 Newsletter
The calendar month of January contains two of the twelve major Feast Days of the liturgical year as well as one of the secondary Feast Days of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first of these days begins on Friday, Jan 4 with the Royal Hours of the Nativity of our Lord. The services of Nativity will be celebrated on the Sunday with vigil. Divine Liturgy for the Nativity will be celebrated on Monday Jan 7, at 10:00AM. This will allow several people who wish to celebrate Nativity on the old calendar to be with us. The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is the culmination of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament between God and man. This is a Divine Condescension whereby God takes on the form of a man, a servant for mankind. It is a great mystery beyond comprehension in its majesty of the mercy and love of God for mankind.
The secondary Feast Day is celebrated on Jan 14. It is the Circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Giver of the Mosaic Law condescends to submit Himself as a man to that Law. On the eighth day after His birth his Mother, the Theotokos, and Joseph take the Christ Child to the temple to be circumcised according to the Law. In His submission Christ fulfills the Law as He said He would. This day is also the feast day of St. Basil the Great, one of the three holy hierarchs of the Orthodox Church.
The third of these days is the Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ. This day commemorates the baptism of our Lord in the Jordan river by St. John the Baptist. This occurs on Jan 19. After Pascha and Pentecost, this is the greatest Feast of the Orthodox Church, predating even the Nativity in importance. This is the first public manifestation of God the Word Incarnate to the world. The Creator enters into the basic element of life, water, and thereby sanctifies fallen creation. The Lord by submitting to baptism institutes the Sacrament of Holy Baptism for the Church. Through this Sacrament we mystically die to the world and are joined to the Body of Christ and reborn a new creature cleansed of our former sins. The Great Blessing of Water is performed during this period and the water is used to bless homes during this Holy Season. Following Divine Liturgy we will proceed to De Queen lake to bless the waters with a Cross made from Theophany blessed water.
The eve of Nativity is always a strict fast day. Because this day falls on Sunday this year, wine and oil, but without fish, is allowed. If there are questions please ask Fr. George for the appropriate guidance. During the weeks following Theophany, Jan 19, we will be doing the annual house blessings of the parish members. Please schedule this with Fr. George if you wish your home blessed during this season.
The long awaited bell that completes the parish bell set has been installed. When we first ordered the bells we could not afford to complete the set of five so we ordered four bells hoping in the future to complete the set. We had two additional small bells that were not part of the original set and so they were not tuned to be compatible with the original set. One of the smaller bells cracked last year and was sent back for credit by the bell company on the price of the new bell.
Several of our members and friends have special days this month:
Carmen Maria Montero Jan 8 Birthday/Namesday
Fr. David Carder Jan 6 Namesday
Tatiana Skoumbourdis Jan 25 Namesday
Tatiana Stone Jan 25 Namesday
Anton Khudoley Jan 30 Namesday
God grant them many years!
From the fathers
Again and again, the angelic hymn rings out over the world: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). Twenty centuries separate us from that holy night, when that exultant song sounded for the first time. Since that time, much has changed in the life of mankind: whole peoples and empires have exited the stage of history, governments have come and gone, human progress has made great strides, and in many respects man's perspective has broadened. In the world social and spiritual upheavals have alternated constantly. Particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the earth's very appearance has become unrecognizable.
One thing alone has remained as unchanging as eternity itself: the gently yet commanding summons that the world heard from angelic lips two thousand years ago. Why does this bright joy illumine our hearts on the feast of Christ's Nativity? Because the eternal, undying power of this feast lies in its universal spiritual destiny. This is not merely the remembrance of an event that happened long ago. The firth of the God-man into the world is a fact of timeless significance. The mystery of the cave in Bethlehem is accomplished eternally. Upon the world, submerged in darkness, “The Light of Knowledge” has shone, and His radiance is unchanging.
Today, “He who is bodiless takes on a body...He who is invisible becomes visible...He who is ageless begins. The Son of God becomes the Son of Man,” writes the Holy Hierarch Gregory the Theologian. By His visible birth, He unites heaven with the earth, and the nature of God with human nature, or human nature with God. “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh,” says the holy Apostle Paul(I Tim 3:16).
Yes, the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God is great and inscrutable. While remaining God, the Son of God, the Master of heaven and earth, who is “everywhere present and filleth all things,” appears on earth at a given time and, being born of the Virgin Mary, becomes a man like us. Here, the cave serves as heaven for Him, and the Holy Virgin as His throne, and the manger contains the uncontainable God.
The Nativity of Christ is a great source of moral and emotional power. It is the sanctification of man's whole being, hat our works might be made good and God-pleasing. On this mystical night, filled with delight,we encounter god. God, inscrutable in His greatness, God, who illumines everyone and everything with His light—this God appears among men. He is born of the Virgin, who was shown capable of believing so sincerely that the Word of God became a reality on the earth, as the holy fathers testify.
The night of the Nativity has revealed this to us: if God could become a man, it was only because man's stature is such that his is able to unite with God, to become one with Him, and to rise up to the heights of God-manhood. “We can become what Christ was—what He is,” avows the Holy Hierarch John Chrysostom. Excerpts from a homily on Nativity from A Beacon of Hope-The Teaching of Father Ilarion
September 2018 Newsletter
During the calendar month of September the church celebrates two more of the twelve major feast-days of the liturgical year and several other important dates. The liturgical year starts on Sept 14(OS Sept 1). This date is believed to be the date of the creation of the world. The church also remembers the execution of Saint John the Baptist on Sept 11(Aug 29) commemorating his beheading by the command of the wicked Herod. With the demise of St. John the Baptist the prophetic mission of the Old Testament/Covenant ceased and the fulfillment of the New Covenant began with the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. This day is remembered also with a strict fast from meat and dairy products.
On the calendar date of Sept 21(Sept 8 OS) the church celebrates the Nativity of the Theotokos. The Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, is the top of the mountain of the Old Testament. She is the pure vessel by which God would come into His creation. Her conception was miraculous as God answered the fervent prayers of her parents, Joachim and Anna. Anna was sixty plus years old and beyond child-bearing age for a woman. Yet they were a righteous couple in the eyes of God and He heard their prayers and gave them the precious vessel, the Theotokos. Note that the dismissal from most services in the Orthodox Church mentions “the righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna”, the only Old Testament couple so remembered.
The second major feast-day is on Sept 27(Sept 14 OS). It is the feast-day of the Exaltation of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. This day celebrates the finding of the Holy Cross by Queen Helen in Jerusalem during the early fourth century. The Holy Cross as well as the crosses of the two thieves had been discarded and covered by trash for centuries and later a pagan temple was built over the area. This was done to prevent the place from becoming a pilgrimage site for early Christians. After discovering the location, Queen Helen had the temple torn down and uncovered three crosses. Unable to determine which was the Holy Cross, the Patriarch of Jerusalem had the three crosses laid upon the corpse of a dead man. Upon being touched by the third cross the dead man arose to life again. The patriarch raised up the Cross for all to behold and they all cried out, “Lord have mercy!”. This day is also commemorated with fasting from meat and dairy products.
Thanks be to God for the safe return of Evgeny and Anna Harrison and their son, Nikita, from Ukraine.
The heating and air-conditioning system in the church building is being replaced with a larger unit. This should provide better heating and cooling for our services. The old system had developed leaks and was obsolete.
With the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God on Sept 28 the time of extended fasts has ended until the start of the Nativity Fast on Nov 28. As mentioned above in the liturgical notes there are several special fasting days this month.
The bell fund total stands at $2045.00 with the target being $3710.00.
Several of the parish members and friends have special days this month:
Andrew Couch Sept 1 Namesday/Birthday
Elizabeth Johnson Sept 5 Birthday
Dennis Stone Sept 8 Birthday
Kirill Silva Sept 19 Namesday/Birthday
Svetlana Weber Sept 27 Birthday
Lubov Harrison Sept 30 Namesday
May God grant them many years!
From the fathers
This day is particularly joyous for us, Orthodox Christians, since it visibly shows us the power of God, which conquers the laws of human nature, when through profound faith and fervent prayer, the barrenness of the righteous Anna ceases, and the Most-Holy Virgin Mary, whose name has unceasingly been on the lips of Christians for the past two thousand years, appears to the world...
In the little Galilean city of Nazareth, to barren parents, a holy virgin was born so pure and spotless, of such immeasurably great moral worth, that she was shown capable of receiving into her womb the source of purity and sanctity—God Himself. She was born from whom the source of joy was to shine forth—the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God. She was born who was destined to renew all mankind and to regenerate our faith, to bring light and joy to our hope of salvation.
Through the Nativity of the Most-Holy Virgin Mary, all mankind obtained a constant comforter, their mediatress and sleepless intercessor. She does not cease to intercede for us as the Mother of all believers, to whom we turn with filial boldness in joy and in grief. Although through Christ's Cross, we have been given all things necessary for our salvation, we are so weak and infirm that we are not always capable of directly taking advantage of God's help. We need other mediators before the Lord, of whom the Most-Holy Virgin Mary, being “more honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim,” is the greatest intercessor before God for the whole human race. She is kin to us by nature and knows all our infirmities and needs through Her own life, in which She walked the same thorny path as Her Son. Whoever calls upon Her with faith, love, and firm hope, praying to Her with filial boldness, receives all that he asks from the Lord by Her prayers. Who has run to Her and has not experienced Her mercy?
Let us give thanks, therefore, to the Most-Holy Mother of God for Her great mercies to us, and ask Her not to desert us sinners at this time of life which is so difficult for us who with faith venerate Her Son and God and rightly confess His name. Truly, “thy nativity, O Mother of God Virgin, hath proclaimed joy to all the world, for from thee hath shone forth the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God.” Amen.
Excerpts from a homily on the the Nativity of the Mother of God from A Beacon of Hope, The Teachings of Father Ilarion.