Friday, September 23, 2016

HOLY CROSS UPDATE

Dear friends in Christ,

This Update is going out to the members and friends of Holy Cross parish. Please pass it on to anyone who may be interested in it. It is a bit of a long one, but it is filled with important in formation so please read it carefully.

SUMMER CHURCH PICNIC - Sunday, September 25

This coming Sunday is our annual Summer Church Picnic which will immediately follow the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. Once again we have reserved a covered pavilion at Halleck Park, 816 E. Halleck Street in Papillion. Halleck Park is a beautiful setting for our Summer Church Picnic and is only minutes from the church.

This Sunday only, Matins will be at 9:00 AM, followed by he Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 9:30 AM. These Services have been moved up to give us more time at Halleck Park as we could only reserve the pavilion until 2:00 PM. There will be no Christian Education this Sunday. Classes will resume next week.

The picnic is absolutely free, so be sure to invite family and friends. Our parish Women’s Group, the Sisters of Holy Cross, will be providing hamburgers and hotdogs that will be grilled at the picnic. 

Members of our church family are asked to bring a main dish, OR a side dish and a desert or drink. Visitors are our guests and do not have to bring a thing. 

FALL HAYRACK RIDE, BONFIRE AND POTLUCK - Saturday evening, October 29

Our annual Fall Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck at Santa’s Woods will be held on Saturday evening, October 29th. The Hayrack Ride begins promptly at 6:00 PM, so please arrive early.

Santa’s Woods is located between Omaha and Blair on Blair High Road. There is a large sign that you cannot miss. Santa’s Woods is a working farm and a popular place to buy a Christmas trees. The hayrack ride will take us through newly harvested fields and then take us to a private setting where we will be welcomed by a roaring bonfire. There will be picnic tables with electrical outlets for coffee and crock pots; and hotdogs, marshmallows, and smores can be roasted in the fire.

This is not a parish fundraiser and the church will only be charging what Santa’s Woods charges the church. I will get the the cost (which is nominal) out to you as soon as I have it. Our annual Fall Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck is always a highlight of our parish life and everyone always has a wonderful time, so begin telling your family and friends about it. Everyone is invited!

A NEW SPRINGTIME

The 21st century is proving to be a New Springtime for the Orthodox Church, with rapid growth being experienced everywhere. The revival and resurgence in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is unprecedented in Church history, and growth around the world is nothing short of amazing. In America alone, 23% (nearly one in four) of Orthodox Christians are converts, as are 30% of clergy and 43% of seminarians. At Holy Cross Orthodox Church we are a parish of converts, and we received five more into the Orthodox Church and into our parish on the Feast of Dormition (Assumption), and five into the Catechumenate last Sunday.

Converts to Orthodox Christianity come from every Christian tradition and from none; and from Christian backgrounds as diverse as Evangelical Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, with the largest single group of converts coming from Anglicanism. They come from everywhere and find their spiritual home in the Orthodox Church.

I am attaching for you a link to the testimony of Hal Freeman, another Southern Baptist who, with his family, has found his way home to the Orthodox Church. Hal and I are Facebook friends and I enjoy reading his blog. He is the son of a Southern Baptist minister who grew up in a devout Southern Baptist home, went to a Southern Baptist seminary and became a teacher in a Southern Baptist University. I think you will find his testimony a blessing. Here is the link:


PARISH FACEBOOK PAGE

Have you visited our parish Facebook page lately? This week I posted a video of Assyrian Orthodox Christians chanting the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. Aramaic is the language that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Family, the twelve Apostles and the earliest Christians spoke. These Assyrian Orthodox Christians did not take a class to learn this ancient language. It is their native language, an ancient language still spoken by them!

The Orthodox Church is the oldest Church in the world. It is the original Church. Aramaic and Greek are still the living languages of Orthodox Christians. You can go to the Holy Land and experience the Eucharistic Liturgy in Hebrew. The Middle East is still the heartland of Orthodox Christianity. The Orthodox Church is Catholic, universal, for all peoples of all races and nations, for all time. It is Eastern and Western in rites, it is Aramaic, Greek, Arabic, African, Slavonic, Latin, Celtic, and English (and more) in traditions, and it speaks every language known to man. An ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse Church with Christ alone as head, and united in an unchangeable Deposit of Faith.

The Orthodox Church is for everyone. The door is open and everyone is welcome. Don’t settle for anything less. Insist on the original. I hope that you will visit our parish Facebook page and hear the Lord’s Prayer sung in our Lord’s own language. If you haven’t yet “Liked” our Facebook page, please do so today. It will help us to spread our message. Check back often as the Facebook page is regularly updated. Here is the link:


IMPORTANT REMINDER

Remember, this week only, Sunday Matins will be at 9:00 AM, followed by the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 9:30 AM, with our annual Summer Church Picnic at Halleck Park in Papillion immediately after the Liturgy. Next week we will return to our normal schedule.

Holy Cross is a faithful, friendly and vibrant parish, and we have a place for you. Do be sure to invite your family and friends to church and to the Summer Church Picnic this Sunday. I hope to see you Sunday morning at 9:00 AM.

Wishing you every grace and blessing,

Father+

Fr. Victor Novak
Rector
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558

Thursday, September 8, 2016

HOLY CROSS UPDATE


Dear friends in Christ,

I am attaching for you a link to an article that I encourage you to read. It is titled, New Converts Flocking to Ancient Christian Church. It is about Fr. Richard Petranek who came to the Orthodox Church after 30 years as an Episcopal priest and his growing parish in west Houston, filled almost entirely with converts to the ancient faith. It is a wonderful story, very much like ours at Holy Cross parish, and is being repeated all across the country and around the world as Christians from traditions as different as the Amish to traditional Roman Catholicism, and everything in between, find their way home to the ancient and original Christian Church.

Today, 23% of all Orthodox Christians in America are converts, as are about a third of the clergy and 43% of the seminarians. They come from every Christian tradition, and from none. In our own Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) we have three bishops who are converts: one from Roman Catholicism and two from Anglicanism. Anglicans make up the single largest group of converts to the Orthodox Church, and there are hundreds of Orthodox priests are who are former Anglicans. This tremendous growth is being seen all around the world. 

In the Western Rite we have the fullness of the Apostolic Faith, while preserving our English and Celtic cultural, liturgical and spiritual patrimony in full sacramental communion and visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church is Catholic, meaning that she is both Eastern and Western, and is the Church for all peoples of all races, nations and ethnic groups on earth. If you want to be where the Holy Spirit is at work and the Church is on the move, you need to be a part of the 2,000 year-old Orthodox Catholic Church. Everyone is always welcome, and we have a place for you. Come and see! 

Here is a link to the article:


SUMMER CHURCH PICNIC

Please mark your calendar for Sunday, September 25th, for our annual Summer Church Picnic at Halleck Park in Papillion. As in previous years we have reserved a covered pavilion and the picnic will begin immediately after the Sunday Liturgy. This is a free event so invite your family and friends. Everyone always has a wonderful time and there is always plenty of good food.  

CHRISTIAN ED RESUMES THIS SUNDAY

Christian Education classes for all ages will resume this coming Sunday morning at 8:45 AM. The adult class will be taught by Michael D. Michael is an excellent and very popular teacher at Holy Cross. He will be  teaching from the book, Welcome to the Orthodox Church - An Introduction to Eastern Christianity, by Frederica Mathewes-Green.

Welcome to the Orthodox Church - An Introduction to Eastern Christianity contains 24 chapters. Michael’s class will last for 24 weeks and he will be covering a chapter per week. No one is required to purchase the book, but I recommend that you do so if you can. If you own the book and read each chapter in the week leading up to the class you will get even more from the class, but whether or not you obtain a copy of the text book, please come to the class. You will learn a lot from it.

This is the class to bring your inquiring or questioning family members and friends to. I am really looking forward to it. I have read the book, so I know that you will enjoy reading it and will learn a lot from it, and Michael is an excellent teacher who always comes to class well prepared.

Philip Jenkins of Baylor University writes, “Plenty of books deal with Christian theology in weighty and abstruse ways, but few apply the theology so wholly to the everyday lived realities of life, and in such easily accessible prose, as does Welcome to the Orthodox Church. Take warning, though: if you do read this thoughtful, passionate book, you run the risk of having to take the claims of Orthodox Christianity very seriously indeed."

Patty Joanna Rebne writes, “In the beginning of the book, Frederica tells us what her husband, an Orthodox priest, writes on the whiteboard when he starts a catechism class:

‘What you will not learn in this class: Orthodoxy.
What you will learn in this class: About Orthodoxy.’
Frederica holds to this truth in her book. You will learn a lot about Orthodoxy in this book. But becoming Orthodox is experiential. Knowing Christ is experiential, relational. It’s not a head-game; it’s not about what you know. Without denigrating dogma, Frederica does the most important thing: she uses the words of Christ to call us to Christ – ‘Come and See.’
Come and read…you will be glad you did. But don’t stop there. Come and see.”

You can purchase Welcome to the Orthodox Church - An Introduction to Eastern Christianity, by Frederica Mathewes-Green, from Ancient Faith for $19.99. Here is the link:


Or you can purchase it from Amazon for $16.99. Here is the link:


Mark your calendar for Sunday, September 11th, and plan to attend. Believe me, you will be glad that you took this class!

REMEMBER THOSE MOST IN NEED

As always, please be sure to remember those most in need and bring a donation of food with you on Sunday for our parish food bins. The needs are great and the Open Door Mission and Lydia House need our help. Thank you!

SUNDAY SERVICES

Sunday Christian Education for all ages is at 8:45 AM, followed by Matins at 9:15 AM, with the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. Fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall follow the Liturgy.

Holy Cross Orthodox Church is a faithful, friendly and vibrant parish and we have a place for you. Everyone is always welcome so invite your family and friends. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you on Sunday!

blessings,

Father+

Fr. Victor Novak
Rector
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

950th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS AND THE DEATH OF THE ROYAL PASSION-BEARER KING HAROLD GODWINESSON AND THOSE WITH HIM


In a time when most Western Christians, including Anglicans and Roman Catholics, have forgotten their heritage, the Orthodox Church still remembers and venerates its ancient Western patrimony. 

On October 27th, a Pilgrimage to the village of Whatlington, near the town of Battle in East Sussex, England, will be held by the Russian Orthodox Church in honor of the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, in which the English King and thousands of soldiers perished defending Orthodox England from the Norman invaders. The Pilgrimage will take place at 11:00 AM at the church of the St. Mary Magdalene, about three miles north of the battlefield. Whatlington was a royal manor in which King Harold stopped to pray on his way to the battle. The Pilgrimage includes a memorial prayer service, a luncheon, and a short talk on the battle and its aftermath, with a meeting of the Guild of St. Eadmund to follow.

Here is a link to an article about the Pilgrimage from the Russian Orthodox News Site Pravoslavie:


In 1054, when the Roman Patriarchate fell away from the Orthodox Church the English Church remained Orthodox. The Norman Invasion was proclaimed as a crusade to bring an erring English Church back under Rome. Thousands died in the conquest, including the Royal Passion-bearer King Harold Godwinesson. William, the Duke of Normandy, usurped the English throne, and all but one of the English bishops were imprisoned by the Normans and replaced with Norman usurpers. The Church was forced into submission to Rome. Members of the English royal family actually fled to Russia and married into the Russian royal family.

The goal of the English Reformation which began in 1534, was to restore the Faith and Order of the “undivided” Church. That goal was advanced by the Caroline Divines of the 17th century, the Oxford Movement of the 19th century, and the St. Louis Church Congress and the continuing Anglican Movement of the 20th century, and has taken traditional Anglicans to the very door of the Orthodox Church.

When traditional Anglicans and other Western Christians step through that door and become Orthodox Christians they are not “joining a new Church” but instead are returning home to the Church from which their forbearers were torn away by the Roman Schism of 1054, and the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Today, Anglicans make up the largest single group of converts to the Orthodox Church. In America alone there are hundreds of Orthodox priests who are former Anglicans. In our own Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia two of our bishops are former Anglicans. When I am asked, “Where have all of the traditional Anglicans gone?” My answer is always the same: To the Orthodox Church!

There are now Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and on the continent of Europe, and our numbers are growing. Our Dean, Fr. Mark Rowe, is a former Anglican priest and Archdeacon. 

As a Western Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia we have preserved our English and Celtic cultural, liturgical and spiritual patrimony in full sacramental communion and visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church firmly holds to the Faith and Order of the “undivided” Church because the Orthodox Catholic Church is the undivided Church. We love being Orthodox. Everyone is welcome. We have a place for you. Come and join us!

SUNDAY SCHEDULE

Christian Education 8:45 AM
Matins 9:15 AM
Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist 10:00 AM
Fellowship and Refreshments after the Liturgy

HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558

Friday, August 26, 2016

SUNDAY, AUGUST 28th - The Feast of the Dormition

This coming Sunday, August 28th, is the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, also known as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is an important Feast of the Church and will be a big day in the life of our parish. We will be receiving catechumens into full church membership and we are expecting visitors.

The Sacrament of Confession will be available from 8:15 to 8:45 AM. Because of the Feast we will have Solemn Matins - something that happens rarely in the Western Rite. The liturgical colour will be blue. A festive Potluck Luncheon will follow the Liturgy.

THE WAY OF SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION

I am always on the lookout for helpful reading material that I can pass on to you, and I am attaching a link for you to a piece that is well worth reading. It is the transcript of a talk given my Abbot Damascene (Christensen). Abbot Damascene was a monk with Fr. Seraphim (Rose) in the early 1980s, wrote a beautiful biography of Fr. Seraphim, and is now abbot of the monastic community that Fr. Seraphim and Fr. Herman founded.

In Protestantism, salvation means simply changing God’s attitude toward you, so that you can go to heaven. God is angry with sinners (everyone), but His attitude toward you can be changed by trusting in Christ and by saying a “Sinners Prayer." 

This notion was unknown in the early Church and has only been around since the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. The Apostolic Faith is much different. God is not angry with us. He loves us, pities us, and does not desire the death of a sinner, but that he should turn from his sin and live. For the Apostles and for Orthodox Christians today salvation means spiritual transformation. “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2).

This way of spiritual transformation is called Theosis or Deification. Not that we become God, but that we enter into union with Him and become “partakers of the Divine Nature” (2 Peter 1:4). The aim of the Christian life is not to change God’s attitude toward us - He already loves us; or even to just become better people living more moral and ethical lives. The Church is not just a moral reform society. The aim of the Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit and union with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Our union with God is a continual transformation by grace into the likeness of God, which is the likeness of Christ.

Harry Boosalis of St. Tikhon’s Seminary writes: “For the Orthodox Church, salvation is more than the pardon of sins and transgressions. It is more than being justified or acquitted for offenses committed against God. According to Orthodox teaching, salvation certainly includes forgiveness and justification, but is by no means limited to them. For the Fathers of the Church, salvation is the acquisition of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. To be saved is to be sanctified and to participate in the life of God – indeed to become partakers of the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:4).”

I hope that you will prayerfully and thoughtfully read THE WAY OF SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION. You will find it to be a blessing and a help in your spiritual walk with Christ. Here is the link:
CLOSING THOUGHTS

Sunday Solemn Matins is at 9:15 AM, followed by the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM, with a Potluck Luncheon in our parish hall following the Liturgy. Everyone is always welcome at Holy Cross parish. There will be plenty of good food and warm fellowship so please be sure to invite family and friends. If you have never worshipped with us before or haven’t worshipped with us recently, I hope that you will accept my personal invitation to worship with us this Sunday and to join us for a festive potluck luncheon. We are a faithful, friendly and vibrant church and we have a place for you. See you on Sunday!

blessings,

Father+

Fr. Victor Novak
Rector
Holy Cross Orthodox Church
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
www.holycrossomaha.net
(402) 573-6558

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

THE BRANCH THEORY - Don't Bet Your (Eternal) Life On It

During Lent this year I was introduced to a Uniate priest who was visiting Omaha. He was well educated, articulate, and personable. After spending a few minutes getting acquainted and in pleasant conversation he said to me, “I am going to say something you are not going to like.” After pausing for a moment he said, “I consider myself an Eastern Orthodox who happens to be in communion with the Pope.” While I could not agree with his statement, I could understand it. It was the Branch Theory, and that is something that I sincerely believed in for most of my adult life. 

THE BRANCH THEORY

As an Anglican I had sincerely believed that my Church was a Western Orthodox Church that happened to out of visible communion with the broader Orthodox Church due to the accidents of history. I believed that Anglicanism, when true to itself, held essentially the same Faith as the Orthodox Church in the East. They were Eastern Orthodox and we were Western Orthodox, and one day everyone would come to see that and the outward divisions would end. I was very sincere, but I was also very wrong.

Anglicans imbibe on the Branch Theory with their mother’s milk, or at least they did in the days when the Anglican Communion professed to hold the Catholic Faith. Today only a remnant of Anglicans still profess to be Catholic Christians, and most of them are found in the Anglican Continuum, with a smaller number in the Anglican Church in North America. 

Historically, Anglicans have believed, according to the Branch Theory, that the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Nicene Creed and of the first millennium of Christianity has been divided into three branches: the Anglican, the Eastern Orthodox, and the Roman; and that these divisions constitute schisms within the Church rather than schisms from the Church. These schisms within the Church have been caused by the sins of men and by the accidents of history, but do not effect the essential Catholicity of any of the branches. Visible unity would be a good thing, and should be worked toward, but visible unity is of the bene esse (well being) rather than the esse (being) of the Church. Furthermore, unity could best be achieved through mutual recognition and intercommunion between the branches of the Church based on the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral or something like it.

I left the Episcopal Church in the late 1970s, after the 1976 Minneapolis General Convention approved the ordination of women and adopted a new Liturgy which was a clear break with Anglican liturgical tradition and was of dubious orthodoxy. I was of the St. Louis Generation, and was ordained to the Anglican ministry in 1984. The Anglican Branch Theory was what I was taught, and what I sincerely believed in and taught to others for many years.  

THE TWO LUNG BRANCH THEORY

In recent years a form of the Branch Theory has been taught in the Roman Catholic Church as well, but it includes just the Roman and Orthodox Churches. Although Rome accepts the Orders of the Polish National Catholic Church and even has a limited intercommunion with the PNCC, exactly where this body fits in with Roman Catholic ecclesiology has never been fully articulated. A third lung, a branch, a twig?

Pope John Paul II described the Roman and Orthodox Churches as Sister Churches and two lungs of the Body of Christ, and both Benedict XVI and Francis have continued this teaching. Roman Catholics are willing to admit Orthodox Christians to receive communion in their churches, although the Orthodox Church not only does not reciprocate, but forbids its faithful to receive Holy Communion outside of the visible Orthodox Catholic Church.

PROTESTANTISM - AN INVISIBLE CHURCH

Protestantism in general does not hold any form of recognizable ecclesiology, but holds a very loose form of the Branch Theory, which can best be described as the Invisible Church Theory. By far the predominant Protestant position is that the Christian Church is made up the thirty-thousand or so divided, disagreeing and competing denominations, plus the uncountable numbers of independent, interdenominational and nondenominational congregations, as well as those who profess belief in Jesus Christ but belong to no church and have little or no interest in “organized religion.” They see the “True Church” as invisible, made up of faithful believers in all denominations or none, and known only to God. In Protestantism the visible Church is of little or no importance as each believer feels free to believe and do whatever is right in his or her own eyes. Instead of removing a pope, the Protestant Reformation made millions of them and the result has been utter chaos.

THE ANGLICAN BRANCH THEORY TODAY

With the collapse of the Anglican Communion into apostasy, traditional Anglicans have been forced by the necessity of circumstances to revise the Branch Theory downward in a Protestant direction until there is little or no difference in practice between the current Anglican view and the Protestant Invisible Church Theory.

In the generation since the St. Louis Church Congress launched the Continuing Anglican Movement in 1977, the Anglican Continuum has continued to divide and splinter until there are now dozens of small traditional Anglican jurisdictions in North America alone. A good history of the St. Louis Continuum is found in the book Divided We Stand, A History of the Continuing Anglican Movement, by Douglas Bess (Tractarian Press, 2002). Divided We Stand is a 314 page heartbreaking history of the movement from its beginning through 2001, chronicling its infighting, power struggles, and schisms.

Tragically, in the years that have followed the history recorded in Divided We Stand things have only gotten worse. The March 2014, edition of the Anglican Way (formerly Mandate), the magazine of the traditionalist Prayer Book Society, reported that “traditional Anglican parishes in North America belong to at least 45 separate jurisdictions, which may advertise only scant intercommunion arrangements... the ever changing landscape of churches of the Anglican continuum makes tracking via the Internet the most up-to-date, if not necessarily the most reliable means of locating active 1928 and 1962 BCP parishes in North America.” 

These “45 separate jurisdictions” are for all practical purposes separate denominations. Every bishop consecrated in these groups claims to be a bishop in the “one, holy catholic and apostolic church,” but such a claim can only fit with the Protestant notion of an invisible Church. By 2014, the three branches of the Anglican Branch Theory had become 47 branches: Orthodox, Roman, and 45 separate Anglican branches.

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the largest extramural Anglican body in North America, recognizes this fact in its practice. The official practice of the ACNA is to admit all “baptized Christians” regardless of what their denominational affiliation is, if any, their belief about the Eucharist, or their preparation for its reception, to receive communion. 

With the collapse and splintering of the Anglican Communion the Anglican Branch Theory has become untenable, forcing Anglicans to accept essentially an Invisible Church Theory in practice while still sometimes using the term Branch Theory, though without its original meaning. Since most of the first generation of leaders of the St. Louis Continuum have passed from the seen and a generation has come of age that never knew the Anglican Communion in the days of its (little “o”) orthodoxy or a united Continuum, this essentially Protestant ecclesiology is all that they have ever known. Since the old Anglicanism that was united in the Anglican Communion and professed to hold the Catholic Faith is gone for ever, the Anglican Branch Theory has proven itself untenable and false.

THE ORTHODOX CHURCH AND THE BRANCH THEORY

So how does the Orthodox Church view the Branch Theory? The Orthodox Church sees the Branch Theory as untenable and a heresy. 

In Orthodox theology and ecclesiology there is a unity between Christ and His Church.  There is only one Christ so there can be only one Body of Christ, of which He is the head. Orthodox theology does not teach that it is possible for the Church to be visibly divided while invisibly one. The four marks of the Church are given in the Nicene Creed: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, and the Orthodox Church takes these four marks seriously and literally. The Church is one on earth, and in time and eternity. 

Unity is one of the essential marks of the Church, and with Christ’s promise that the gates of hell will never prevail against His Church the Church will forever retain its essential characteristics, and will always remain visibly one. There have been and can be schisms from the Church, but no schisms within the Church. Schisms do harm the Church, but they cannot affect the nature of the Church. Like limbs broken from a tree, schisms can sometimes be re-grafted, but if too much time passes the severed limb begins to decay and die, and schism quickly begets the rot of heresy. The Church has always been, is, and always will be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

The Roman Catholic teaching regarding the two lungs of the Body of Christ and that there are two Sister Churches is likewise impossible according to Orthodox Christian ecclesiology. In Orthodox ecclesiology the “branches” of the Church are the local autocephalous Orthodox Churches; and if one were to talk of two lungs of the Church,  Eastern and Western, the Western lung could only be the canonical Orthodox dioceses in the West in general and the Western Rite within the Orthodox Church in particular.

Today there are Western Rite congregations and monastic communities in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and on the Continent of Europe. In North America there are Western Rite communities in the Antiochian Orthodox Church and in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (Moscow Patriarchate). It was in Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians, and the Moscow Patriarchate is by far the world's largest autocephalous Orthodox Church. In Europe there are Western Rite communities in the Russian (ROCOR), Romanian and Serbian Orthodox Churches.

Orthodox bishop, Metropolitan Kallistos (Timothy) Ware writes, “The Orthodox Church in all humility believes itself to be the ‘one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’, of which the Creed speaks: such is the fundamental conviction which guides Orthodox in their relations with other Christians. There are divisions among Christians, but the Church itself is not divided nor can it ever be” (The Orthodox Church, New Edition, c. 2015, p. 300).

THE WITNESS OF SCRIPTURE

In his High Priestly Prayer offered just before he began his passion, our Lord Jesus Christ prayed that his disciples would all be one. 

“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are” (John 17:11). Continuing he prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me” (John 17:20-25).

The Apostle Paul described the Church and its Faith this way: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6). In these three short verses St. Paul uses the word “one” seven times.

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you.  Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? ” (I Cor. 1:10-13

The belief in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures.

EXTRA ECCLESIAM NULLA SALUS

Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, “There is no salvation outside the Church” has been a Christian teaching from the earliest times. The fact that this truth has been all but forgotten in the West since the Western Church was splintered into so many fragments does not make it any less true. In fact, it serves as a warning to those who have lost their understanding of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, become desensitized to the great evil of heresy and schism, comfortable with divisions among Christians, and indifferent to the vital necessity of Christian unity.

St. Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258), writing about some schismatics of his day said, "Salus extra ecclesiam non est" — "there is no salvation out of the Church"(Letter LXXII).

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 202) wrote: “One should not seek among others the truth that can be easily gotten from the Church. For in her, as in a rich treasury, the apostles have placed all that pertains to truth, so that everyone can drink this beverage of life. She is the door of life.” (Against Heresies, III.4)

St. Augustine of Hippo (d. 430) said, “No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church one can have everything except salvation. One can have honor, one can have the sacraments, one can sing alleluia, one can answer amen, one can have faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and preach it too, but never can one find salvation except in the Catholic Church.” (Sermo ad Caesariensis Ecclesia plebem).

Does this mean that all who are outside of the visible Church are lost? No, it does not. 

In his book, The Church is One, Alexei Khomiakov, the great 19th century Orthodox theologian, considered by many to be a Doctor of the Church, wrote, “Inasmuch as the earthly and visible Church is not the fulness and completeness of the whole Church which the Lord has appointed to appear at the final judgment of all creation, she acts and knows only within her own limits; and (according to the words of Paul the Apostle, to the Corinthians, I Cor. 5:12) does not judge the rest of mankind, and only looks upon those as excluded, that is to say, not belonging to her, who exclude themselves. The rest of mankind, whether alien from the Church, or united to her by ties which God has not willed to reveal to her, she leaves to the judgment of the great day. The Church on earth judges for herself only, according to the grace of the Spirit, and the freedom granted her through Christ, inviting also the rest of mankind to the unity and adoption of God in Christ; but upon those who do not hear her appeal she pronounces no sentence, knowing the command of her Saviour and Head, ‘not to judge another man’s servant’ (Rom. 14.4).”

As St. Augustine of Hippo wisely remarked: "How many sheep there are without, how many wolves within!" (Homilies on John, 45, 12). Nevertheless, the sheep who are without are bidden to come within the sheepfold so that there is one flock and one shepherd; and those who knowingly chose to remain outside for whatever reason place themselves in a very precarious position for, Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

EMBRACING THE FULLNESS, NOT REJECTING THE PAST

Non-Orthodox Christians entering the Orthodox Church need not reject any of the good things found in the Christian traditions from which they come. Becoming Orthodox does not mean rejecting the past, but embracing the fullness of the Faith. It has often been said that while Orthodox Christianity has maintained the Faith of the undivided Church, the Roman Church has added to it and the Protestants have subtracted from it. 

ROMAN CATHOLICS

Roman Catholics who become Orthodox do not reject any part of genuine Catholicism, but only those innovations in faith and practice which contributed to the Great Schism, or arose in the centuries following it. Roman Catholics converting to Orthodoxy should see themselves as returning to the Church from which their ancestors were torn away without their consent by the papal schism of 1054, and as embracing genuine Catholicism - Orthodox Catholicism.

PROTESTANTS

The goal of the Protestant Reformers was to reform the Western Church of the abuses  and errors that had crept in after the Great Schism of 1054. In 1519, two years after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, in a debate with the famous papal apologist Johann Eck, Dr. Martin Luther said, “The truth lies with the Greeks” (i.e., the Orthodox).

Protestants converting to Orthodox Christianity need only embrace what Luther said in 1519: “The truth lies with the Greeks.” Protestants who become Orthodox do not so much repudiate the Reformation as complete it by returning to the Faith and Order of the undivided Church and returning to unity with the historic Church.

ANGLICANS

The English Reformation that began in 1534, was very different from that on the continent of Europe. No new Church was formed, and it was the bishops themselves that carried out the Reformation of the Church with the goal of reforming the abuses and errors that had entered the Western Church and restoring the Faith of the undivided Church. Although much good was accomplished, the English Reformation was far from perfect and mistakes were made. The goal of the Reformation was advanced by the Caroline Divines of the 17th century, the Oxford Movement and subsequent Catholic Revival of the 19th and he first half of the 20th centuries, and the St. Louis Church Congress and Continuing Anglican Movement of the latter 20th century. 

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware writes, “Ever since the early seventeenth century there have always been Anglicans for whom the Reformation settlement under Queen Elizabeth I represented no more than an interim arrangement, and who appealed, like the Old Catholics, to the General Councils, the Fathers, and the tradition of the undivided Church. One thinks of Bishop John Pearson (1613-1686) with his plea, ‘Search how it was in the beginning; go to the fountainhead; look to antiquity.’ Or of Bishop Thomas Ken (1637-1711), the Non-Juror, who said, ‘I die in the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith, professed by the whole Church, before the disunion of East and West.’ This appeal to antiquity has led many Anglicans to look with sympathy and interest in the Orthodox Church, and equally has led many Orthodox to look with interest and sympathy at Anglicanism. As a result of pioneer work by Anglicans such as William Palmer (1811-79), J.M. Neale (1818-66), and W.J. Birkbeck (1859-1916), firm bonds of Anglo-Orthodox solidarity were established by the end of the nineteenth century” (ibid, The Orthodox Church, p. 311).

“There are individual Anglicans whose faith is virtually indistinguishable from that of an Orthodox,” writes Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, “but there are others... who openly repudiate fundamental elements in the doctrinal and moral teachings of Christianity” (ibid, The Orthodox Church, p. 314). Metropolitan Kallistos Ware is speaking here of the comprehensiveness of Anglicanism which holds people of widely differing theological views together in one body. Historically it was the Liturgy that united Anglicans and kept the comprehensiveness from becoming too broad, but with the abandonment of the traditional liturgies all restraint has been removed. 

Even among self-professed traditional Anglicans a widening comprehensiveness is observed. Within the Anglican Church in North America will be found self-identifying Catholics, Calvinists and even Zwinglians; opponents of women’s ordination and bishops who ordain women; believers in seven sacraments and believers in two; adherents of traditional liturgical practices and those who could best be described as semi-liturgical. In order to hold the organization together the ACNA has adopted a novel “three streams theology” uniting Protestants, Catholics and Pentecostals in one body. How a body with such conflicting theologies and internal contradictions can be called Anglican in the historical sense of the word is anyones guess.

Much the same is true of the Anglican Continuum. There are continuing Anglicans today who are theologically far removed from the Affirmation of St. Louis which was proclaimed at the great St. Louis Church Congress in 1977. There are continuing Anglicans who believe in seven sacraments, seven Oecumenical Councils, who study and venerate the Fathers of the Church, pray for the dead and ask the intercession of the Saints. But there are other continuing Anglicans today who believe in two Sacraments, condemn belief in the intercession of the Saints and who do not pray for the dead. While the majority see Apostolic Succession as of the esse (being) of the church, a minority see it merely as of the bene esse (well being) of the Church. These conflicting view points — and there are many more — are not just found among jurisdictions, but within them. In the Anglican Continuum the Anglican Catholic Church, an Anglo-Catholic jurisdiction, is in full communion with an Evangelical Protestant jurisdiction, the United Episcopal Church. This comprehensiveness has always been the Achilles heal of Anglicanism.

In Orthodoxy the Faith of the undivided Church is not merely one of the permissible options. It is simply De Fide. There is no doctrinal “comprehensiveness” in Orthodoxy, no “via media,” only “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).   

Speaking of the Anglican-Russian Orthodox Theological Conference in Moscow in 1956, Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey reported that the Orthodox said in effect, “The Tradition is a concrete fact. There it is in its totality. Do you Anglicans accept it or do you reject it?”

Many Anglicans have come to see The Tradition as a concrete fact, have embraced it in its totality, and have entered the Orthodox Church. Today, Anglicans make up the largest single group of converts to the Orthodox Church. Archpriest Josiah Trenham, a convert to the Orthodox Church from Anglicanism and a former clergyman of the Reformed Episcopal Church writes, “It is my estimate that there is no heterodox body in America from which more Orthodox clergy have come than the Anglican Communion. The number of Orthodox priests in this country [the USA] that were previously Episcopal clergy is certainly in the hundreds” (Rock and Sand, by Archpriest Josiah Trenham, Newrome Press, c. 2015, p. 193).

Orthodox priests who were formerly Anglicans can be found everywhere. In my own community of Omaha, Nebraska, there are nine Orthodox priests. Of the nine, six are converts; and of the six, five are former Anglicans. When I am asked, “Where have all of the traditional Anglicans gone?” My answer is always the same, “To the Orthodox Church!” In the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) alone, there are two bishops who are former Anglicans, as well as one bishop who is a former Roman Catholic.

EVERYONE IS WELCOME

The Orthodox Church is nothing of the ethnic, closed society that some mistakenly think it is. In fact, the Orthodox Church is far more diverse ethnically than Anglicanism or Lutheranism among others. Orthodox Christians come from every race, nation and ethnicity on earth. My own parish is white and black; European, Middle Eastern and African, native born and foreign born. 

The Orthodox Church is both Eastern and Western in culture and liturgy. While predominantly Eastern, the number of Western Rite congregations and monastic communities is growing. St. Tikhon of Moscow - the good friend of Anglican Bishop Charles Grafton of Fon du Lac, and St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, are the patrons of the Orthodox Western Rite. It was St. John who said, “Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox you must be Eastern. The West was fully Orthodox or a thousand years.” 

While Anglicans now make up the largest single group of converts to the Orthodox Church in the United States there are also large numbers of Roman Catholics and Protestants who have come home. There are Orthodox priests who are former Roman Catholics, as well as priests who have come home to Orthodoxy from virtually every Protestant tradition. Everyone is welcome. 

The Orthodox Church is growing so rapidly that in many places it has become a Church of converts. In America, 23% — about one in four - Orthodox Christians are converts, as are 30% of the clergy and 43% of seminarians. Hardly an ethnic ghetto!

YOU CAN COME HOME AGAIN

The Branch Theory? Don’t bet your eternal life on a mere theory, especially one that has proven itself to be untenable.

All Christians are invited to come home again, both laity and clergy. The door is open and the welcome mat is out. You will be treated with love and dignity, and welcomed with joy. What is required is accepting the Deposit of Faith without addition, diminution or change. As St. Mark of Ephesus said, “There can be no compromise in matters of the Orthodox Faith.” The gifts, talents and training of non-Orthodox clergy who become Orthodox are valued, and large numbers of former non-Orthodox clergy are now serving as Orthodox clergy. I am one of them. 

There is a place for everyone. Come and see. The Orthodox Church welcomes you!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH - A Place for You!

Holy Cross Orthodox Church is a faithful, friendly, vibrant and welcoming church, and we have a place for you.

We are a Faithful church, firmly committed to “the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), without addition, subtraction or change. We believe the same things that Christians believed a century ago, a millennium ago, even 2,000 years ago; and in the Orthodox Church there are no voices calling for change, no theological conflicts and no problems with liberal-modernism. We have never had a “dark” age, a Reformation or Counter Reformation, and we have never had a “Vatican II.” The Orthodox Church is timeless and unchanging in Faith and Morals, and Orthodox Christians will believe just as we do now until our Lord returns. As St. Athanasius the Great said, “Know that we must serve, not the times, but God.”

We are a friendly Church. Everyone is always welcome at Holy Cross parish - Orthodox Christians and Christians of other traditions, churched and unchurched, believers searching for a church that takes discipleship seriously and seekers who may not even be sure what they are looking for. 

We are a vibrant church, with plenty of opportunities for involvement and service. We celebrate the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist (Divine Liturgy/Holy Mass) twice each week, have active parish organizations including a parish Sisterhood (Women’s group), a vested Choir, a Guild of woodworkers and craftsmen who beautify and maintain our church, a quality Sunday School program, — and we regularly support four area homeless shelters. 

We contribute large amounts of food to feed those most in need at the Open Door Mission and the Lydia House shelters, and every ounce is contributed by the members and friends of Holy Cross parish. Our latest delivery totaled 507 pounds of much needed food, and we have another delivery ready to go.

Every Friday and one Saturday of the month large amounts of donated gourmet bread is delivered to the Francis and Siena House shelters. Pickups are made the night before. Making these regular pick-ups and deliveries takes real commitment on the part of our parish volunteers, and they carry out this virtually unseen ministry week after week, month after month, and year after year. In 2015, Holy Cross volunteers picked up and delivered 15,311 packages of donated gourmet bread. Now that is a lot of badly needed food! 

Hardly a word has to be said about these ministries to keep them working and to keep our members giving of their time. They are simply the good fruit of Christians who are serious disciples of Christ. 

We are a Welcoming church. Holy Cross parish is a real church community, and we enjoy being together. We have fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall after the Liturgy on Sundays, with a potluck luncheon on the last Sunday of the month. We have an annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, a parish outing to see the Omaha Storm Chasers Baseball Club on Faith and Family Night, a Summer Church Picnic, a Fall Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck at Santa’s Woods, occasional Dinner and a Movie Nights in our parish hall, and more. 

We are white and black, blue collar and white collar, young, middle aged, and seasoned. We are a diverse church family united by our love for God, faith in Jesus Christ, and commitment to the Orthodox Christian Faith. You will never feel like a stranger at Holy Cross parish, and after a few weeks you will feel like you have known everyone for years. We currently have seven catechumens who are preparing to be received into full membership in the Orthodox Church. Everyone is welcome to join us, and we have a place for you too!

Holy Cross Orthodox Church is a Western Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). We are Western in culture and worship, and English and Celtic in spiritual heritage and traditions, while being in full communion and visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church. 

Although we are a Western Rite parish, Eastern Rite Orthodox Christians are always welcome to worship with us, receive the Holy Sacraments (Mysteries) at our altar, and become members of our parish. Eastern or Western, we are all One Church, One family and united in One Faith.

As a Western Rite Orthodox parish in the English and Celtic tradition, we use the Liturgy of St. Tikhon rather than the Eastern Rite Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. St. Tikhon of Moscow was responsible for making the restoration of the English Usage of the Western Rite possible, and our Liturgy carries his name in honour of his work. St. Tikhon is one of two patron saints of the Western Rite. The other is St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, the 50th anniversary of whose repose in 1966, was just commemorated around the world. It was St. John of San Francisco who said, “Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox you must be Eastern. The West was fully Orthodox for a thousand years.”

What makes Holy Cross parish such an amazing church? We are a Eucharistic community, and the Holy Eucharist is the centre and summit of our spirituality. The life of our parish is centered in the Holy Eucharist.

We celebrate the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, commonly called the Divine Liturgy or Holy Mass, twice every week. On Sunday morning we celebrate the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist with Gregorian chant and the great hymns of the Church. We worship God in a spirit of holiness, administer the Sacraments with great reverence, and preach real sermons, teaching the fullness of the Apostolic Faith.

Our midweek celebration of the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist is held over the lunch hour so busy people can come and receive the Bread of Life. This is a quiet, prayerful and intimate Liturgy with smaller numbers in attendance. Attendance for this midweek Liturgy can vary. Last Wednesday we had eleven in attendance. Receiving Holy Communion in the midst of a busy week will  change your week. Making it a habit will change your life!

Holy Cross parish has a very nice leased facility that includes a traditional chapel, parish hall, and sacristy, classroom and office space, and we have already twice expanded the amount of space we lease. We also have a Building Committee and are ready to purchase a church building whenever a suitable building becomes available, and are currently serious considering a building that we may buy. 

As a Western Rite parish we have a special mission to rebuild the Western Church that fell away from the Orthodox Church in 1054, and shattered into splinters after the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, and to re-evangelized the secularized West. There are now Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and on the Continent of Europe, and our numbers are growing.

Holy Cross Orthodox Church is a faithful, friendly and vibrant parish, and we have a place for you. We celebrate the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist every Sunday morning at 10:00 AM. Everyone is invited to attend, and visitors are always welcome. We hope to see you there!