Friday, May 30, 2014

HOLY CROSS UPDATE FOR MAY 30, 2014

Yesterday was the Feast of the Ascension of Christ. We celebrated the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist and our vested Choir led us in the singing. It was a joyful celebration and a blessing to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. We are just nine days away from the Feast of Pentecost, often called Whitsunday. On that first Pentecost after the Ascension of our Lord the Holy Spirit was been poured out on the Church and He lives in the Church. The Holy Spirit fills and empowers the Church and leads her in the way of truth. We are very members incorporate in the Church, the Body of Christ. Pentecost has historically been considered the birthday of the Church and we remember that birthday every year at Holy Cross. 

This Sunday is the Sunday after the Ascension and the celebration of our Lord's Ascension continues. I will be delivering an important sermon on heaven and the Saints of God in glory this Sunday. You will not want to miss this message.

There was a front page article with a full colour picture about Holy Cross on the cover of the May 21st edition of the Ralston Recorder. The title of the article was: "Orthodox bishop's visit a connection to early church." The title says it all! The full colour picture is of Bishop George of Mayfield, flanked by Fr. Michael Smith and myself, along with two visiting Orthodox priests - Fr. John Filipovich and Fr. Anthony Nelson. The article will be posted on the bulletin board in the parish hall. 

Fr. Anthony and Fr. John will be returning to Omaha next month per our request, to give Fr. Michael and I instruction in the Eastern Rite. While Holy Cross is a Western Rite parish, this instruction will help Fr. Michael and I to be fully integrated with brother clergy of the Eastern Rite who make up the majority of Orthodox Christian clergy. This will be especially helpful when we worship with Eastern Rite clergy at clergy meetings and retreats. 

Thanks to the generosity of a family in the parish we will be running weekly ads for the church in five suburban newspapers, including The Base (Stratcom and the Airbase), for sixteen (16) weeks! These will be large 1x2 inch ads, and they will run weekly from June 4th through September 16th. We will also be listed on a website called Midlandschurches.com. I am very excited about these ads and the wonderful exposure that it will give our church.

The St. Joseph's Guild has been putting in many hours of hard work building a new credence table for the church to replace the white pillars in the sanctuary. I have not seen the finished table yet, but I am told that it will be beautiful. There will be gold leaf Christian symbols on the front and on both sides. If all goes according to plan the new credence table should be in the church and in use this Sunday. A big thank you to the hard working members of the St. Joseph's Guild!

If you have not seen our newly renovated chapel I invite you to worship with us this Sunday. The chapel is already beautiful, and there is more to come. The nave is surrounded by icons of the Saints of the British Isles reminding us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Walking into the chapel you get the distinct feeling that you are on holy ground, and your eyes are drawn immediately to the holy altar and the tabernacle that is in its midst. Come and experience the presence of the Lord for yourself! 

So far this year we have provided the Open Door Mission with 2,260 lbs of food, and delivered untold hundreds of pounds of gourmet bread donations to the Francis and Siena House shelters. We are making a real difference in the lives of countless hurting and very needy people. Few of us can even imagine what it must be like to have to rely on a homeless shelter for housing and/or food. Let's get our parish food bin refilled as quickly as possible so more desperately needed food can be taken to the Open Door Mission. Please bring a food donation with you on Sunday if you can. Thank you.

Christian Education classes have ended for the Summer. When classes resume in September, Michael D. will be teaching the adult class. Morning Prayer (Matins) continues as usual at 9:30 AM, followed by the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM.  

Vespers, commonly called Evening Prayer, is prayed in our chapel every Saturday evening at 6:30 PM. This Service of prayer and Scripture lessons is a wonderful way to prepare for the Sunday Eucharistic Liturgy. It is a short Service that takes less than thirty minutes, but the investment of your time will bring tremendous spiritual benefits. For those who choose to remain after Vespers, Fr. Michael will be leading a study session in the parish hall. He is using the book, "Children of the Promise." I hope that you will come to Saturday evening Vespers whenever you are free, and that you will consider staying for the study if you can. Remember, Saturday evening at 6:30 PM!

Next week the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated on Wednesday at 12:10 PM and on Thursday morning at 7:00 AM. Nothing will help you to grow spiritually like participating in a mid-week celebration of the Holy Eucharist. These Liturgies last only forty minutes, but they will change your life! The Sacrament of Holy Communion is the bread of life. Come and partake freely of this great gift.

Confessions are heard every Wednesday from 11:15 to 11:45 AM, Thursday from 6:15 to 6:45 AM, and by appointment. You may also come forward to receive this Sacrament during the praying of the psalms and canticles at Morning Prayer on Sundays. The Sacrament of Confession is a wonderful gift of God that is too little used today. In this Sacrament we can unburden ourselves and receive the sure promise of absolution, as well as spiritual counsel and direction to help us overcome the sins that so easily beset us, and whatever is said in Confession is under the seal. The Sacrament of Confession is for everyone, including priests - especially priests. I went to confession to Bishop George when we was with us earlier this month. What a blessing it is to receive personal counsel and spiritual direction fitted to your particular needs and struggles, and hear the words of absolution. You feel clean all over.

The Sisters of Holy Cross held their last meeting until September on the first Wednesday in May, so there will be no women's meeting next week. However, the Women's Group is still working on a number of summer projects. There will be a fund-raising Father's Day Bake Sale on June 15th. A Summer Church Picnic and a Fall Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck are all in the planning stages as well. 

There will be no Choir practice this coming Wednesday evening.

Our mission at Holy Cross parish is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not know him and the fullness of the Apostolic Faith to those who do. 80% of all the people who join any church this year will do so because they were invited by a friend or family member. Let us each do the work of an evangelist in our family circle and among our circle and friends. It can be as easy as inviting people to church, but you must be persistent. It often takes a lot of asking to overcome inertia, so keep asking! Never give up on anyone! The harvest field is ready, but the labourers are few. The Bible promises, "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. 12:3). Let us be busy about our Father's business!

Sunday Morning Prayer is at 9:30 AM, followed by the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM, with refreshments and fellowship in the parish hall after the Liturgy. Nursery care for children under the age of four is available during our 10:00 AM Eucharist, but children of all ages are always welcome in the chapel during worship.

We are a faithful, friendly and active church, and we have a place for you. If you have any questions or need directions feel free to e-mail me at venovak@hughes.net or call me at (402) 573-6558. I'll be looking forward to seeing you on Sunday!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

EPISCOPAL VISIT TO HOLY CROSS PARISH




photo.JPG.jpg

From left to right: Fr. John (OCA); Fr. Victor, Rector of Holy Cross parish (ROCOR); 
Bishop George (ROCOR); Fr. Michael, Assisting at Holy Cross parish (ROCOR);
and Fr. Anthony (ROCOR)



On Monday, May 12, 2014 His Grace Bishop George of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) arrived in Omaha, Nebraska to begin a five day Episcopal visit to Holy Cross parish. Two Orthodox priests arrived the next day to join us for four days of prayer and fellowship.

Long time lay reader Mike Choiniere was tonsured a Reader by Bishop George during Western Rite Vespers on Tuesday evening, May 13, and then the congregation enjoyed a potluck church supper in honour of the bishop’s visit and the tonsure of our new Reader. It was a wonderful evening and I have seldom seen so much delicious food at a parish function.

In addition to the visiting Orthodox clergy we also had visiting Anglican clergy who traveled to Omaha to meet the bishop. These Anglican priests are interested in entering the Orthodox Church as Western Rite clergy. Another information meeting for interested Anglican clergy will be held next month in Atlanta.

Holy Cross Orthodox Church is a Western Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. In December 2013 we opened a new and much larger parish hall, and in 2014 we have been undertaking the renovation of our chapel. Our church facility has been expanded and beautified to the glory of God. When you walk in the door of our chapel you will have the unmistakable feeling that you are on holy ground and you will feel the presence of the Living God.

We celebrate the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist every Sunday morning at 10:00 AM, with Gregorian chant, incense and Biblical preaching. The Holy Eucharist is preceded by Morning Prayer or Matins at 9:30 AM. We are a faithful, friendly and active congregation, and we have a place for you. I hope to see you on Sunday!


Monday, April 21, 2014

PASCHA AT HOLY CROSS

Christ is Risen!

We had a wonderful celebration of Pascha at Holy Cross parish. Our new St. Joseph's Guild has been doing some remodeling and the work so far looks great. Our altar has been raised to the regulation 39 inches, and we now have a beautiful new tabernacle on the altar with a gold leaf Celtic Cross on the door. A new Icon of the Mother of God is also up in the sanctuary. We had flowers everywhere, traditional Easter Hymns, Gregorian chant for all the Propers, our vested choir sang "O Lord I am not Worthy" at communion time, and we nearly raised the roof with cries of "Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!" 

We had people away, which unfortunately happens during holidays, but we still had a full house. Looking out from the pulpit, the congregation was a Catholic mosaic of white, black and asian. The sermon was recorded on our new state-of-the-art audio/video recording equipment and will be part of our new electronic media outreach that is about to be launched. As is our tradition at Holy Cross parish, red Easter Eggs were distributed at the end of the Liturgy with the Paschal greeting, “Christ is Risen!” Fellowship time after the Liturgy was shorter than usual as people had to leave to be with family and friends, but not before they clicked their eggs. It was a blessed time.

Unfortunately, the sign company did not get our new signs up last week, but promises to have them up this week. We are having two new signs put up, including a large 3x8 foot sign that will be visible from a long way away. The signs will have a Celtic Cross in emerald green, with black text on a white background. The signs are expensive, but they will be worth it.

The Paschal celebration is not limited to Easter Sunday, and continues on. There is no fasting or abstinence during Easter Week, and the celebration of the Resurrection goes on for the forty days leading up the  feast of the Ascension of our Lord.

St. Joseph’s Guild will continue to remodel and refurbish our sanctuary and chapel over the next few weeks. Last December we moved into our new and much larger parish hall, and now we are renovating our chapel. Holy Cross is a parish on the move! 

We are a traditional church, fully Orthodox in Faith, Order and Moral teaching, and maintaining our ancient Western liturgical and spiritual heritage. You won’t find anything new here. No new theology. No new morality. No trendy worship. We even observe the Old Calendar! What you will find is a faithful, friendly and active congregation committed to Christ, to one another, and to growing in holiness. The Christian life is the good life at Holy Cross parish and we have a place for you. Come and see us grow!

Friday, April 4, 2014

HOLY CROSS UPDATE FOR PASSION-TIDE


This Sunday is Passion Sunday and the beginning of Passion-tide. Pascha, Easter, is just two weeks from Sunday. I hope that you have had a focused, holy and fruitful Lent so far. If not, there are still two weeks left in Lent so let us make a spiritually profitable use of the time we have left. Even if we have had a holy and profitable Lent so far, we can still intensify our observance for the last two weeks of this important season. Remember, no pain no gain, no cross no crown.

Lenten observance is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. We don't pray, receive the sacraments, fast and practice self-denial in order to gain merit with God. We do all these things, and more, as means to grow in holiness. Growing in holiness is to be able to surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit more and more, day by day, so He can change us into the likeness of Jesus.  As the Saints of every age have already discovered, marvelous things happen when we let go of our own need to control and begin to live more and more with the wonder and trust found in a child. Being a Saint (Latin for holy) is a vocation to which each and every Christian has been called, not just a few greats who lived in the past and who are now commemorated on the Church Kalendar. Becoming a Saint means repenting of and forsaking our sins, centering our lives more and more in God's life, acquiring the Holy Spirit and surrendering ourselves more and more to His leading, and using more and more of what we have in personal talents and spiritual gifts, and time and treasure, not for our own self-aggrandizement, comfort or pleasure, but for the glory of God and the service of His people. To be a Saint is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, partake of the Divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), and become like Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Fr. Anthony Coniaris says, if "it's not personal, it's not real."

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, April 13th. The Holy Week Schedule is:

Palm Sunday, April 13th, Morning Prayer, 9:30 AM;  Holy Eucharist,                       10:00 AM
Spy Wednesday, April 16th, Holy Eucharist ,                                                                   12:10 PM
Maundy Thursday, April 17th, Holy Eucharist, Stripping of the Altar and Evening Prayer,  6:30 PM
Good Friday, April 18th, Morning Prayer and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts,   9:00 AM
Evening Prayer and Litany,                                                    6:30 PM
Easter Even, April 19th, Evening Prayer and Renewal of Baptismal Vows,                6:30 PM
Easter or Pascha, April 20th, Morning Prayer, 9:30 AM;   Holy Eucharist,                      10:00 AM
I hope that you will arrange your schedule for Holy Week so you can attend as many of these important Services as you can, and every Service if possible. We will be walking with Christ and reliving the events in the days leading to His Passion, Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection. 

Let us remember the poor and take the money that we are saving by fasting and buy food for those most in need. Our donation of food was taken to the Open Door Mission today and totaled 300 pounds! So far this year we have contributed more than 1,700 pounds of food to the Open Door Mission and we are outpacing last year's giving — for which I am truly thankful. And that does not include our deliveries of large amounts of gourmet bread to the Francis and Sienna House shelters every Friday and one Saturday of every month. The needs are so great and they are growing, and I am thankful that we are able to help feed so many. The parish food bin is now empty, so please bring a donation with you on Sunday. There are so many hungry people to feed. Let's do all we can for as many as we can following the example of our Lord. Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who helped clean the church last Wednesday evening for Holy Week and Pascha. We had a good turnout and we were finished in about an hour. 

Please remember in your prayers those who were killed or wounded at Fort Hood this week, and their families. The last count that I heard was three dead, plus the shooter who took his own life, and sixteen wounded.

There will be no Services at Douglas County Hospital tomorrow (Saturday). The hospital is under quarantine. Volunteers are not being allowed in and residents are not being allowed to gather in groups. I have no further details. Please remember the patients and staff of Douglas County Hospital in your prayers. 

You may have noticed that our street signs are down. That is because the City of Ralston is requiring that all street signs come down. There is good news though. Our landlord is allowing us to put up a new sign on the overhang of the covered parking lot. A large 3x8 foot sign is already being made and will soon go up, greatly increasing the visibility of our church from the street. A new sign is also being made to replace the sign on the pillar in the parking lot. This new sign will be placed higher on the pillar to increase visibility as well. These new signs will have a Celtic Cross like you see on our bulletin cover, in emerald green, with black text on a white background.

A family in the parish has purchased and donated audio and video recording equipment, and we are awaiting delivery. This new equipment will allow us to increase our electronic outreach, enabling us to record events, lectures, sermons and more, and then upload them onto Youtube. I am very, very excited about this new outreach!

Our altar will soon be raised to make it more visible during worship. Altars have always been required to be no less than 39 inches and no more than 42 inches high, yet our altar measures a mere 30 inches high. The altar should be the most visible part of the church, drawing all eyes to it. I am thankful that we have a skilled woodworker in the parish who will be raising up our altar by nine inches so it will be the traditional 39 inches in height and the most visible part of the church. I am told that the added wood and stain will match the altar as it now is. I am really excited about this.

Next week Confessions will be heard on Wednesday from 11:15 to 11:45 AM.
The Holy Eucharist will be celebrated on Wednesday at 12:10 PM and on Thursday at 7:00 AM.
Choir Practice will be held on Wednesday evening at 6:15 PM.

This Sunday, April 6th, is Passion Sunday and the beginning of Passion-tide. I hope that you will invite family and friends to come to church with you, and even pick them up and bring them with you if you can. 

Sunday School is at 9:00 AM, followed by Morning Prayer at 9:30 AM and the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. Nursery care for children under the age of four is available during our 10:00 AM Liturgy. Refreshments and fellowship follow worship. In an age of watered-down doctrine and worldly morality, we remain an Orthodox Christian church with an unchanging message in an ever changing world. On Christ the solid Rock we stand, all else is naught but shifting sand. We are a faithful, friendly and active congregation, and we have a place for you. See you on Sunday!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

ARE YOU MAKING A DIFFERENCE?

“Devote all your energy to preaching the Word of God and the truth of Christ, especially today, when unbelief and atheism are audaciously attacking the Church of Christ” - St. Tikhon (1865-1925), the martyred Patriarch of Moscow and former Bishop of America.

Do you want your life to count for something, or are you just muddling through?

Are you interested in serious Christian discipleship, or merely fulfilling a perceived obligation?

Who or what are you really serving? 

Are you looking for a committed church, or a church where you can sit anonymously in a pew and then rush out the door?

Are you a talker, or are you a doer of the Word of God?

Do you want to change the world we live in, beginning with yourself, or are you looking for a church that requires little inward or outward commitment on your part?

These are all important questions with temporal and eternal consequences, and they can be summarized in this one: Are you a serious disciple or something less? If you are really serious about the Christian life and looking for a place to grow in knowledge, holiness and service, then Holy Cross parish may be the church for you! 

Holy Cross is an amazing church. Like all churches we have had our ups and downs, our victories and our setbacks and missteps, our joys and our heartbreaks, but in good times and hard times we are consistently faithful to God and to one another, and never take our eyes off Jesus. Faith without works is dead (James 2:17), and we are very involved as light and salt in our community and around the world. Holy Cross is a faithful, friendly and active church made up of serious disciples, and we have a place for you. Are we perfect? By no means. But we are serious and faithful disciples of Christ, and God isn't finished with us yet! We have His promise in Scripture that if we remain faithful He will complete the work begun in us.

Holy Cross parish is an Orthodox Christian church in the Anglican tradition. We hold firmly to the Faith of the Undivided Church, earnestly contending for the Faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) without additions or subtractions. You won’t find anything new here. No new theology... no new morality... no trendy worship. What you will find is a warm, friendly and welcoming congregation committed to the Word of God and to worshipping God in spirit and in truth.

Our spirituality is Benedictine, revolving around the daily Divine Office, with the Holy Eucharist as the center and summit of our spirituality; and we balance prayer and work (Ora et Labora) in our spiritual lives.

We celebrate the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist every Sunday morning at 10:00 AM, preceded by Morning Prayer (Matins) at 9:30 AM, with fellowship and refreshments after the Liturgy, and a potluck luncheon on the last Sunday of the month. Nursery Care for children under the age of four is available during our 10:00 AM Sunday Liturgy. We celebrate the Holy Eucharist at Holy Cross parish three times every week - Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, in addition to Holy Days. We are truly a Eucharistic-centered parish and everyone has an opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion frequently.

We also minister in the chapel of Douglas County Hospital, bringing the Gospel and spiritual care to long-term residents that are sadly often all but forgotten by family and completely cut off from any church community.

At Christmas time in 2012, we established a Vested Choir at Holy Cross parish. A Vested Choir is a beautiful and beloved Anglican tradition. This dedicated choir sacrifices an evening of their time every week for practice in addition to assigned music homework, and blesses the parish with their music ministry. We have a salaried Music Director/Cantor who is also a parishioner. Our traditional Liturgy is beautiful and the ancient Gregorian chant lifts our hearts to the Throne of Grace. Our Liturgy is the Orthodox Anglican Use of the Western Rite, called the Liturgy of St. Tikhon.

In February of this year we added more Gregorian chant to the Liturgy and our choir will soon begin singing the Domine, non sum dignus as we receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. I met with our Music Director yesterday, and we are looking at adding Gregorian chant to the Divine Office as well. Our Ash Wednesday Service this year was beautiful. It consisted of the Litany, the blessing and imposition of ashes and a sung Eucharist. For the first time we chanted the Litany as a congregation.

We place a strong emphasis on Christian education at Holy Cross. We preach real sermons with an emphasis on the exposition of the Scripture lessons in the Liturgy as understood by the Fathers of the Church. Our adult Christian Education class (Sunday School) is well attended at Holy Cross and we teach the class at the college level. I am currently teaching this class, but Fr. Michael Smith also teaches and we make use of capable lay teachers as well. St. Jerome reminds us that “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ” and counsels us to “Often read the Holy Scriptures, indeed, let the Bible never be out of your hands.”

There are many opportunities for involvement at Holy Cross parish. We have a parish Prayer Chain that prays for people by name and need; a Birthday Card ministry; are involved in Pro Life work; have active Women’s and Men’s groups; and more. Our Women’s group is called the Sisters of Holy Cross and our Men’s group is the Knights of St. George. 

We are also a church that is supported entirely by the tithes and offerings of parishioners. We do not have bingo or constant fundraisers. We have had a few minor parish fund-raisers such as a Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper or a Lenten Fish Fry, but our occasional fund-raisers tend to be held by parish organizations to fund their important work. 

In 2013 we contributed 4,997 pounds, or about two and a half tons, of much needed food to the Open Door Mission, an area homeless shelter. That is more than four times our original goal and an absolutely amazing amount of food! Every pound of this food was given by parishioners. In addition, we have already contributed more than 1,100 pounds of food to the Open Door Mission so far in 2014. The winter of 2013/2014 has been brutal so in order to help those most in need to survive the cold we have begun collecting blankets and gloves from parishioners for the Open Door Mission. The Open Door Mission weighs all donations, and last week we provided the Mission with 46 pounds of blankets. More donations are piling up in our parish hall and will soon be delivered to the Mission.

In 2013 we also delivered a vast amount of donated gourmet bread to the Francis and Siena House Shelters and that ministry continues in 2014. This bread is picked up by a Holy Cross parishioner every Friday and one Saturday of the month from a gourmet sandwich shop and delivered to the Francis and Siena House Shelters. Each delivery is around 150 pounds of bread. We are currently supplying the three largest homeless shelters in Omaha with much needed food. Holy Cross is making a real difference in the lives of real people.

In 2013 we partnered with Samaritan's Purse and participated in Operation Christmas Child. Holy Cross parishioners sent many boxes of Christmas gifts to children in third world countries touching them with the love of Jesus and giving them hope. In addition, we raised money in 2013 to dig clean water wells in Africa, and to help both the Palestinian and Jewish Christian communities in the State of Israel.

In December of 2013 we moved into our new parish hall. The new hall is almost double the size of our old parish hall. While we were overcrowded in the old hall we seem dwarfed in the new hall, but that is a good feeling. It not only gives us more classroom and nursery space, but also gives us room for expansion.

In addition to fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall every Sunday after the Liturgy and a monthly potluck luncheon, we also enjoy other activities that build our parish family. We have occasional “dinner and a movie” nights showing an edifying film in the parish hall; an annual Summer Church Picnic; a Fall Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck at a nearby working farm; and a Christmas party in the wee hours of the morning after our Mid-night Liturgy on the Feast of the Nativity. The Christian life is the good life at Holy Cross parish.

At Holy Cross we put a real emphasis on the fact that the church is not something we go to, but a family to which we belong. The church is the family of God where disciples should really care for one another - and we do. There are no cliques here. Age, socioeconomic class, education, ethnicity or past life does not matter. All are welcome and cared for. We are committed to one another because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all sinners saved by grace and wounded healers. Holy Cross is a place for new beginnings.

Our fellowship and refreshment time after Services have looked more like potluck luncheons over the last month and a half or so with an abundance of delicious food, and my wife Cheri and I find ourselves leaving the church later and later on Sunday afternoons. Why? Because we are a church family and we enjoy being together.  

If you want to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and make a difference in people's lives, beginning with your own, then Holy Cross parish is the church for you. Ultimately, what you will get out of the church and the Christian life depends on what you are willing to put into it. Jesus said, if we want to be his disciples we must pick up our cross daily and follow him. Come for a visit and see for yourself. We celebrate the Holy Eucharist every Sunday morning at 10:00 AM, with fellowship and refreshments after the Liturgy. We are a faithful and friendly congregation and we have a place for you. I hope to see you on Sunday!

Friday, February 21, 2014

HOLY CROSS UPDATE

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday is our monthly potluck luncheon. As always, members of our church family are asked to bring a main dish, or a side dish and a desert or drink. Our guests do not have to bring a thing. Our monthly potlucks are a real highlight in the life of Holy Cross parish and there is always plenty of good food and warm fellowship, so be sure to invite family and friends!

So far in 2014 we have contributed 874 pounds of much needed food to the Open Door Mission, and our weekly bread deliveries continue to the Francis and Sienna House shelters. Our food bin is already filling up. Let's try to fill it to over-flowing this Sunday so the food can be taken to the Open Door Mission. In his Epistle, James writes, "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:14-17).

Next week we will celebrate the Holy Eucharist on Wednesday at 12:10 PM and on Thursday morning at 7:00 AM. Midweek attendance is increasing, and there is no better time for you to begin attending than in pre-Lent. Receiving the Blessed Sacrament in the midst of a busy week will refresh you and change your life, but you don't have to take my word for it, come and experience the blessings for yourself.

Choir practice will be held on Wednesday evening at 6:15 PM.

Ash Wednesday is on March 5th this year. Ash Wednesday Services start at 6:30 PM.  

This Sunday we will begin an overview of the Book of Revelation in our adult Christian Education class. This will not be a flight of fantasy, but a sober look at this important book in light of what Christians have historically believed about it. If you do not want to be misled by pop eschatology and want to be able to make sense of this important book, then you will want to be in class at 9:00 AM on Sunday. Invite your friends!

On Sunday I plan to administer the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (Holy Unction) during our 10:00 AM celebration of the Holy Eucharist. This sacrament of healing is available to anyone who is physically, mentally or emotionally ill. Those seeking the Lord's healing touch will be invited to come and kneel at the communion rail immediately after the General Confession and Absolution in the Liturgy.

We do not rush through Sunday mornings at Holy Cross parish. Sunday is the Lord's Day, not the Lord's forty-five minutes before we rush out the door to begin "our" day. We take our Faith very seriously here. Services are reverent and prayerful, and the preaching is expository. Many years ago an elderly priest whom I greatly respected gave me a small sign to put in my sacristy. The sign read, "Priest of God, celebrate this Mass as though it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass." I have always taken that message to heart. Before the celebration of every Eucharistic Liturgy the priest and his assistants pray Psalm 43. "And that I may go unto the altar of God, even unto the God of my joy and gladness" (Ps. 43:4, 1928 BCP p. 394). Is God your joy and gladness? Do you approach the holy altar with joy and gladness? Do you view coming to worship as an obligation to get over with as quickly as possible, or as an opportunity to gather with the family of God at the feet of Jesus? How should we view coming to church? The Bible tells us: "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" (Gen. 28:17 NKJV). "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be ye thankful unto him, and bless His Name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations" (Ps. 100:4-5 KJV).

Sunday School begins at 9:00 AM, followed by Morning Prayer at 9:30 AM and the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. Nursery care for children under the age of four is available during our 10:00 AM Liturgy. Our monthly potluck luncheon follows Worship. We are a faithful, friendly and active congregation and we have a place for you! I'll be looking forward to seeing you on Sunday.

Wishing you every grace and blessing,

Father+

V. Rev. Victor E. Novak
Rector
HOLY CROSS PARISH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
www.holycrossomaha.net
www.holycrossmedia.com
Rectory: (402) 687-9458
Church:  (402) 573-6558

Friday, February 7, 2014

HOLY CROSS UPDATE

Dear friends in Christ,

It has been very cold out this week, with schools closed and Services cancelled on Wednesday. I know that I really missed celebrating the Holy Eucharist and receiving Holy Communion on Wednesday. John Wesley received the Sacrament of Holy Communion twice a week from the year he was ordained until the year he died. He couldn't live without it. The Blessed Sacrament is God's great gift to his children. There is no better way to foster a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In the Holy Eucharist time and eternity, heaven and earth come together, and past is made present. The Holy Eucharist begins in the Upper Room where Jesus instituted it, but does not end there. It continues on taking us to Mount Calvary and Christ's sacrificial death upon the cross for our redemption where we re-plead the one oblation of himself once offered, and then go on to commemorate Christ's resurrection and his ascension. In the Prayer of Consecration we pray, "we, thy humble servants, do celebrate and make here before thy Divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same."

The Holy Eucharist is the center and summit of our spirituality. Remembering our Lord's teaching recorded in chapter six of St. John's Gospel we pray, "Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen." 

It is always tragic when Christians who know their Faith and have experienced the sacramental life absent themselves from the Eucharist. Yes, we can pray at home and we must pray at home, but at his Last Supper Jesus commanded his apostles to "do this," the Holy Eucharist, in remembrance of him. Jesus said that without the Eucharist we have no life in us (John 6). The Eucharist has always been, from the beginning of Christianity, the center and summit of Christian spirituality: the Lord's people in the Lord's house on the Lord's Day to celebrate and partake of the Lord's Supper. When we begin to absent ourselves from the Sunday Eucharist we begin to grow weak spiritually. We either repent and return to the Blessed Sacrament or we eventually fall away from the Faith. Many fall away, but only those who finish the race receive the crown.

While the commandments to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourself are the two greatest commandments, the fourth commandment of the Decalogue is critical to our spiritual lives. No matter what we are doing, no matter what sins may have entangled us, if we continue to attend the Holy Eucharist each and every Sunday we will hear God's Word read and then explained by the priest, will hear an invitation to repent of sin and make a general confession, and if truly repentant will have an opportunity to answer a real altar call and to kneel before the altar and receive Christ back into our lives through the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion "that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us."

We don't go to church on Sunday. The church is not merely a building. The word church means, congregation, assembly, community. We are the church. We are the family of God, and we come together in the Lord's house on the Lord's Day to partake of the Lord's Supper. As members of a local congregation, a local church family, we have responsibilities to one another — to love and serve one another. The local parish is a school of charity, a school of love, where we learn to love, serve and value one another, warts and all. Our attitude toward our local church should be, to paraphrase John F. Kennedy, Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church.

The Sunday Eucharist is really the minimum to keep us alive spiritually, but if we really want to grow in discipleship and holiness we need to receive the Blessed Sacrament frequently. At Holy Cross parish we celebrate the Holy Eucharist three times every week, and one week of the month we celebrate it four times. It is possible to receive Holy Communion frequently at Holy Cross parish. Jesus says, "Come unto me all ye that travail [labour] and are heavy laden [weary] and I will refresh you" (Matt. xi. 28). We hear those words of Christ every time we gather to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. We celebrate the Holy Eucharist every Wednesday at 12:10 PM and every Thursday morning at 7:00 AM. The Wednesday Eucharist concludes at 12:50 PM and the Thursday Eucharist at 7:40 AM. The Wednesday Eucharist can be attended over the lunch hour and the Thursday Eucharist will end in time for you to get to work by 8:00 AM. Leave right after receiving Holy Communion if you must, but come. Receiving the Blessed Sacrament in the midst of a busy week will change your life. Come and be blessed!

This Sunday our music director will be back and our choir and Gregorian chant returns to the Eucharistic Liturgy. There is nothing as close to heaven on earth as a sung Eucharist.

A big thank you to Hannah F. for updating our parish website. Do be sure to share our website address with others. We have a great one! It is an easy way to reach out and introduce people to Holy Cross parish. Do the work of an evangelist! Our website address is: www.holycrossomaha.net

This Sunday I will be teaching on the anti-christ in our adult Christian Education class. We will look at every verse of Scripture that mentions the anti-christ. If you have ever wondered what the Bible teaches on this topic you will have an opportunity to learn all about it as we "rightly divide the word of truth." Class begins at 9:00 AM. Invite your friends and plan to be there!

The food bin is filling up fast, let's try to fill it to overflowing this Sunday so this much needed food can be taken to the Open Door Mission. In February we contributed 550 pounds of food to the Open Door Mission. Between our food donations to the Open Door Mission and our bread deliveries to the Francis and Sienna House shelters we are feeding a lot of very needy people. We should be very thankful that God, in His mercy, is allowing us to have a part in feeding so many. It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Next Wednesday we will celebrate the Holy Eucharist at 12:10 PM and on Thursday morning at 7:00 AM. I cannot think of a better reason to skip a meal or a better investment of your time. Come and be blessed!

Sunday School is at 9:00 AM, followed by Morning Prayer at 9:30 AM and the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. Nursery care for children under the age of four is available during the 10:00 AM Service. Fellowship and refreshments follow Worship in our new parish hall.

We are a faithful, friendly and active congregation, and we have a place for you. I'll be looking forward to seeing you on Sunday!

Wishing you every grace and blessing,  

Father+

V. Rev. Victor E. Novak
Rector
HOLY CROSS PARISH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
www.holycrossomaha.net
www.holycrossmedia.com
Rectory: (402) 687-9458
Church:  (402) 573-6558