Tuesday, May 3, 2016

MORE ON EASTER AND THE MIRACLE OF THE HOLY FIRE

Christ is Risen! Христосъ воскресе! Christus resurrexit est!
We had a glorious celebration of Holy Pascha at Holy Cross parish with shouts of "Christ is Risen!" "He is Risen Indeed!" echoing through the temple. The Paschal Hymn, "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death..." was sung repeatedly throughout the Liturgy. The Processional Hymn was, Jesus Christ is Risen Today! And the Recessional Hymn was, Hail Thee Festival Day! (6th century). One catechumen was received into the Church by chrismation and another person was received into the catechumenate and is preparing for baptism. Red Easter Eggs were distributed. A festive Potluck Luncheon followed the Paschal Liturgy with a wide variety of delicious food, three kinds of wine, baklava, hot cross buns, Easter cakes and more. It was a glorious celebration and a joyful Feast. Easter has an Octave in the Western Rite so the celebration continues through Bright Week with the Octave Day this Sunday.

This was our fourth Pascha as an Orthodox parish, if you include the year that we were in transition to Orthodoxy and were under the protection of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. God has been very good to us, and we are so happy to be Orthodox Christians!

While we love and value our English and Celtic cultural, liturgical and spiritual patrimony, we are Orthodox Christians who happen to be Western Rite, not Western Christians who happen to belong to the Orthodox Church. Why? Because “this is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this is the Faith which has established the Universe.”

Metropolitan Hilarion has encouraged us to draw on the spiritual riches of the Christian East as well as restore the Western Rite to the Orthodox Church. This year we adopted a beautiful Eastern Rite practice during Holy Week. For the first time we had a bier with an Epitaphios (Icon of the Burial of Christ) set up in the church and decorated with flowers. It was deeply moving to pray on Good Friday before the bier of our Lord while awaiting His resurrection on the third day.

I am attaching for you links to some important articles, beautiful photographs and inspiring videos that will bless and uplift you, and encourage you in your walk with our Lord. I hope that you will take the time to visit these links. Believe me, you will be blessed!

First, is a link to a six minute video of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill celebrating the Paschal Liturgy at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. This magnificent cathedral was blown up by the bolsheviks after the communist revolution in Russia, but was rebuilt, just as it had been, after the fall of communism. It is beautiful!


Here is a link to a twelve minute video of the Paschal Service and Agape Vespers on the Holy Mountain of Athos:


Here is a link to photographs of Orthodox Christians throughout the world celebrating Holy Pascha:


Are you familiar with the Miracle of the Holy Fire? This is a wondrous miracle of God that has been happening every year on Orthodox Pascha (Easter) since the first century. This great miracle takes place at the Tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel.

Every year the tomb is sealed and all of the candles and lampadas are extinguished. Before the Patriarch of Jerusalem enters theTomb of Christ for the Paschal Services he is carefully searched so that it can be verified by the faithful that nothing that could start a fire is brought in with him. This has been done year after year for centuries. After a period of prayer, the Holy Fire miraculously descends from God into the Tomb of Christ. This fire is then used to light the candles of the thousands of faithful who gather in and around the Church to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. Often lampadas and candles in various parts of the church also spontaneously light. The Holy Fire is then taken to other Orthodox countries. Today, it is usually flown by jet planes, sometimes by military jets. In both the video from Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow and the video from Mount Athos you will see the Holy Fire arriving from Jerusalem.

The Holy Fire is miraculous. Initially, it is unlike any other fire. The faithful can bathe their hands and faces in the flame without being burnt in any way by it - as you will see in the photos and in the video from Jerusalem. But later, it burns like any other flame. This miracle only occurs on Orthodox Easter and only at the Paschal Services of Orthodox Christians. 

I am attaching for you some articles on the Miracle of the Holy Fire, some photographs, and a short video taken of it this year. 

Skeptical? There is no reason to be. This miracle has happened year after year since the first century and has been attested to by vast numbers of witnesses throughout the centuries. This year the Holy Fire was even subjected to a scientific test. Here is an article about it in the Roman Catholic media by a formerly skeptical Roman Catholic reporter:


Here is a link to a short Video of the Miracle of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem 2016:


There is even a website dedicated to sharing the Miracle of the Holy Fire with those who have not heard of it. There you will read a description of the Miracle of the Holy Fire from the Patriarch of Jerusalem himself. Here is the link:


I am also attaching for you a link to a report written almost a thousand years ago, titled, How the Holy Light Descends Upon the Holy Sepulchre, from The Pilgrimage of the Russian Abbot Daniel in the Holy Land AD 1106-1107:


As I was writing this Update, a friend of mine who is highly placed in the Roman Catholic media sent me this quote about the Miracle of the Holy Fire from Pope Urban of Rome in 1096:

“Of holy Jerusalem, ...This very city, in which, as you all know, Christ Himself suffered for us, because our sins demanded ...in that place ...He died for us; there He was buried. How precious would be the longed for, incomparable place of the Lord's burial, even if God failed there to perform the yearly miracle! For in the days of His Passion (Holy Week) all the lights in the Sepulchre and round about in the church, which have been extinguished, are relighted by divine command. Whose heart is so stony, brethren, that it is not touched by so great a miracle? Believe me, that man is ...senseless whose heart such divinely manifest grace does not move to faith!”

On Easter Sunday, May 1st, I posted some amazing photographs of the Miracle of the Holy Fire on the Holy Cross Parish Facebook page. You will want to see these seven photographs. Here is the link to the Holy Cross Parish Facebook page:


If you have not visited the Holy Cross Facebook page I encourage you to do so today. Please “Like” our Facebook page so we can more effectively share the Good News of Jesus Christ and the full deposit of the Orthodox Christian Faith with others. The Holy Cross Parish Facebook page is updated regularly with important information so you will want to follow it closely.

We are now in the midst of Bright Week, commonly called Easter Week. Bright Week is Fast free, so there is no Fast or Abstinence all week long. We will celebrate the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist tomorrow, Bright Wednesday, at 12:10 PM. Receiving the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion in the midst of the week will change your week. Making it a habit will change your life. I hope to see you on Bright Wednesday!

This coming Sunday, May 8th, is the Octave Day of the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Holy Pascha has an Octave in the Western Rite and so we will continue to celebrate Easter this Sunday with the glorious Paschal Hymn, “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” Sunday is also Mothers Day and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the day than by being at the Liturgy to pray for our mothers and by bringing our mothers to church.

Faith is not a leap into the dark, but a step into the Light of Christ. The Holy Fire that illumines the Tomb of Christ year after year on Orthodox Pascha is a reminder from God that the Tomb is empty, Christ is Risen, and He remains with His people. “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16). “We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true Faith by worshipping the undivided Trinity. This has saved us” (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).

Sunday School is at 8:45 AM, followed by Matins at 9:15 AM, and the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. Fellowship and refreshments in the parish hall will follow the Liturgy. Everyone is always welcome at Holy Cross Orthodox Church. Invite your family and friends. We are a faithful and friendly parish, and we have a place for you!

Christ is Risen! Христосъ воскресе! Christus resurrexit est!

blessings,

Father+

Fr. Victor Novak
Rector
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
A Western Rite Parish of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558

Saturday, April 30, 2016

THE MIRACLE OF THE HOLY FIRE, AND EASTER SUNDAY SERVICES AT HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH

Dear friends in Christ,

THE MIRACLE OF THE HOLY FIRE HAS OCCURRED IN JERUSALEM! 

A “MUST SEE” VIDEO OF THE MIRACLE!

The Miracle of the Holy Fire has just occurred in Jerusalem (Jerusalem is in another time zone). This is a wondrous miracle of God that has been happening every year on Orthodox Pascha (Easter) since the first century. This great miracle takes place at the Tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel.

Every year the tomb is sealed and all of the candles and lampadas are extinguished. Before the Patriarch of Jerusalem enters theTomb of Christ for the Paschal Services he is carefully searched so that it can be verified by the faithful that nothing that could start a fire is brought in with him. This has been done year after year for centuries. After a period of prayer, the Holy Fire miraculously descends from God into the Tomb of Christ. This fire is then used to light the candles of the thousands of faithful who gather in the Church to witness the miracle. Often lampadas in various parts of the church also spontaneously light. The Holy Fire is then taken to other Orthodox countries. Today, it is usually flown by jet planes, sometimes by military jets.

The Holy Fire is miraculous. For thirty-three minutes, one minute for every year of our Lord’s life, it is unlike any other fire. The faithful can bathe their hands and faces in the flame without being burnt in any way by it. But after thirty-three minutes it burns like any other flame. This miracle only occurs on Orthodox Easter and only at the Paschal Services of Orthodox Christians. 

I am attaching for you three articles and a short video on the Miracle of the Holy Fire. Please be sure to at least view the video, and then send it on to family and friends.

The first article is a short piece reporting that the Holy Fire has just descended in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. 

After that, you will find a short VIDEO taken of the miracle that has just occurred. Please watch it carefully. You will see how the Holy Fire is passed from candle to candle among the Orthodox faithful; and then YOU WILL SEE how the faithful bathe their hands and necks and faces in the tall flames coming from the candles, but ARE NOT BURNT by the Holy Fire. In fact they are smiling and rejoicing as the flames of the Holy Fire bathes their flesh, but does not burn them. This too is a miracle of God!

The next link will take you to a website dedicated to spreading the word of this annual miracle that has been taking place on Orthodox Easter Sunday since the first century. There you will read a description of the Miracle of the Holy Fire from the Patriarch of Jerusalem himself.

The final link will take you a report on the Miracle of the Holy Fire from Abbot Daniel who was on pilgrimage in the Holy Land from AD 1106 to 1107, almost a thousand years ago.

God is good and is with His people! 

Here are the links: 

Report: HOLY FIRE HAS DESCENDED IN CHURCH OF HOLY SEPULCHRE IN JERUSALEM, 2016:


VIDEO - Miracle of the Holy Fire (Holy Light) in Jerusalem 2016:


Description of the Miracle of Holy Light (Holy Fire) that happens every year in Jerusalem:


HOW THE HOLY LIGHT DESCENDS UPON THE HOLY SEPULCHRE, From The Pilgrimage of the Russian Abbot Daniel in the Holy Land AD 1106-1107 :


EASTER SUNDAY SERVICES AT HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH

Tomorrow, Sunday, May 1st, is Easter Sunday. A Solemn Paschal Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated at 10:00 AM. A festive Potluck Luncheon will follow in the parish hall. 

Please be sure to invite family and friends. Visitors are always welcome! Visitors are our guests and do not have to bring a thing. There is always plenty of good food and warm fellowship.

HOLY CROSS PARISHIONERS

Members of our church family are asked to bring a main dish, OR a side dish and a desert for our Easter Sunday Potluck Luncheon. Visitors are our guests and do not have to bring a thing.

There will be no Sunday School or Matins on Easter Sunday. A Solemn Paschal Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated at 10:00 AM.

The church will be beautifully decorated for Holy Pascha, with new lampadas on the walls. Beautiful Paschal hymns will be sung, including the Paschal troparion: “Christ is Risen from the Dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” We will greet one another with the ancient Paschal greeting: “Christ is Risen!” With the response, “He is Risen indeed!” After Holy Mass red Easter Eggs will be distributed to the faithful in remembrance of Christ’s death upon the cross and his  Resurrection from the dead on the third day.

Holy Pascha, Easter Sunday, is the feast of feasts, the most holy day of the Christian year and the most important day in history. God is with us, and has demonstrated that He is with us by once again performing the Miracle of the Holy Fire at the Tomb of Christ in Jerusalem. Every Christian should be in church on Holy Pascha to celebrate and give thanks for the Resurrection of Christ, for in dying he conquered death and in rising he restored our life. Christ is Risen!

Invite your family and friends. It may just change their lives! I’ll be looking forward to seeing you at church in the morning.

May God grant you every grace and blessing,

Father+

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

HOLY WEEK AT HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH

Holy Week begins Sunday, April 24th, with Palm Sunday. Holy Pascha, commonly called Easter Sunday, is Sunday, May 1st.

PALM SUNDAY, April 24.

9:15 AM - Matins, followed at 10:00 AM by the Blessing and Distribution of Palms and the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, with fellowship and refreshments in the parish hall after the Liturgy. 

There will be no Sunday School on Palm Sunday. Christian Education resumes on Sunday, May 8th. Our monthly Potluck Luncheon has been moved to Easter Sunday, so we can celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ with a joyous agape meal, but we will have fellowship and refreshments after the Liturgy on Palm Sunday as usual. There will be plenty of blessed palms to take home and to share with others so take all you need.

SPY WEDNESDAY, April 27.

11:00 to 11:45 AM - Confessions.

12:10 PM - The Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. 

Wednesday of Holy Week is the day on which Judas made arrangements with the Temple authorities to betray Christ and thus became a spy within the band of the Apostles. Join us at church as Jesus begins his passion, and pray that we may all live in such a way that we never betray Christ in thought, word or deed.

MAUNDY THURSDAY, April 28.

11:00 AM to Noon - Confessions.

6:30 PM - The Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, Vespers and the Stripping of the Altar. 

On this evening we commemorate the Last Supper (called the Mystical Supper in the East) and the institution of the Holy Eucharist by Christ, and receive Holy Communion with those in the Upper Room as from Christ’s own hand. Immediately after Holy Mass we  go with Christ into the Garden of Gethsemane and respond to His heartfelt request that we “watch and pray” (St. Matthew 26:40) with him, by praying Vespers. Upon the conclusion of Vespers the altar is stripped bare and the tabernacle left empty in remembrance that our Lord has been betrayed, arrested and taken away.

Maundy Thursday is the traditional English name for the Thursday before Easter. In the Roman Rite it is commonly called Holy Thursday. The word “Maundy” derives from the first antiphon of the ceremony of the washing of feet, “mandatum novum” - “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (St. John 13:34). 

In the English tradition the ancient ceremony of washing the feet of twelve (or more) poor men has been confined to bishops and other great ecclesiastical and secular personages. In modern times the adoption of the Roman Rite practice of the parish priest washing the feet of twelve men has been introduced and is becoming more common in English Use parishes. 

Sheer Thursday is another old name for Maundy Thursday, from “Sheer” (similar to Shrove), meaning “clean” and “free from guilt,” referencing the practice of going to confession and receiving absolution. Confessions are scheduled to be heard on Spy Wednesday from 11:00 at 11:45 AM, Maundy Thursday from 11:00 AM to Noon, Good Friday after The Way of the Cross, and by appointment.

GOOD FRIDAY, April 29.

10:00 AM - Matins and the Liturgy of the Word (Ante-Communion).

12:10 PM - The Way of the Cross.

12:30 PM - Confessions (Immediately after The Way of the Cross).

6:30 PM - Vespers and the Litany.

On Good Friday we commemorate the passion, crucifixion, and burial of Christ. At Matins we remember our Lord’s arrest and trial; and at the Liturgy of the Word, or Ante-Communion, his scourging and crucifixion.

In the Western Rite, Good Friday and Easter Even (or Holy Saturday) are the only days of the year that the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist cannot be celebrated. In the English tradition the Liturgy of the Word, often called the Ante-Communion, follows Matins, while in the Roman Rite a Liturgy of the Presanctified has become grafted onto it. Some English Use parishes have also adopted this practice.

At 12:10 PM we will follow our Lord Jesus Christ as he carries his cross from prison to Golgotha with a service of prayer and reflection called, The Way of the Cross. Confessions will again be heard after this Service.   

At 6:30 PM we will gather once again for Vespers and the Litany, keeping watch in anticipation of our Lord’s Resurrection. This year we will incorporate a beautiful Eastern Rite tradition into our evening Service. We will have an Epitaphion (“belonging to the burial”). The Epitaphion or Epitaphios is an icon of the burial of Christ that will lay on a bier in the centre of the church, decorated with flowers. Gathered around the tomb of Christ we will sing Vespers and the Litany.

I am sometimes asked why the Orthodox Christian Church observes Holy Week and celebrates Pascha, Easter Sunday, at a time that often is at variance with that of other Christians. The answer is simple. The Council of Nicea (AD 325) that has given us the Nicene Creed also established when Easter was to be celebrated. As Orthodox Christians we continue to recite the Nicene Creed as originally written, without the Filioque clause (that is both un-Scriptural and was added unilaterally and without Catholic consent), and we continue to celebrate Easter as directed by that Oecumenical Council. In an ever changing world the Orthodox Church has an unchanging message. Orthodox Christianity is a fixed star by which men and women can find their way home to our Father’s House.

Please arrange your schedule so you can attend as many Holy Week Services as possible. Try to attend them all as they are all different and through them you will be able to follow our Lord from his betrayal at the hands of a friend (Do we betray him through our sin, indifference and double mindedness?), his arrest, passion, crucifixion, death and burial, and his glorious resurrection on the third day. Holy Week is the holiest week of the year, and it can touch hearts and change lives.

Paschal (Easter) Service information will be posted next week, but for now let us focus our attention on being with our Lord on these last few days of his earthly life. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee. Because by thy holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world.

Visitors are always welcome at Holy Cross parish. We are a faithful and friendly congregation, and we have a place for you! 

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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

COMING FULL CIRCLE

At Holy Cross parish we have come full circle. The Gospel of Jesus Christ arrived in the British Isles in AD 37. It was brought there by St. Joseph of Arimathea directly from Jerusalem. The English Church (ecclesia anglicana) remained part of the Orthodox Church for more than 1,000 years. In the year 1054, when the Roman Patriarchate, having unilaterally changed the Nicene Creed by adding the so-called Filioque (“and the Son”) clause without Catholic consent, fell away from the Orthodox Catholic Church, the English Church remained Orthodox. This led to the Norman invasion in 1066. The Norman invasion was a promoted as a papal crusade to bring the English Church under Roman hegemony.

In October of 1066, King Harold, the last Orthodox king of England, died defending Orthodox England from the Norman invasion. With the Norman Conquest all but one of the English bishops were removed and imprisoned. They were replaced by Norman bishops, and the English Church was forced into submission to the papacy.

The English Reformation, which began in 1534, was very different from the Reformation on the Continent of Europe. No new Church was formed, and the reform was carried out by the bishops themselves. The annulment, not divorce, of King Henry VIII was the occasion, not the reason, for the English Reformation. Unfortunately, Henry VIII was a dissolute king who was more interested in the goods of the Church than the good of the Church. His reign is known as the Royal Tyranny. 

Upon the death of Henry VIII, the English Reformation began in earnest. The goal of the English Reformation was the restoration of the Faith and Order of what is commonly called the undivided Church. However, being five hundred years removed from the “undivided” Church, separated from the Orthodox Church in the East by hostile Roman Catholic powers, and being influenced by Continental Protestant thought, the goal of the English Reformation was hard to achieve. The English Reformation, or perhaps more accurately the English Restoration, was advanced by the Caroline Divines of the 17th century, the Oxford Movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and by the St. Louis Church Congress and the continuing Anglican Movement of the later 20th and early 21st centuries.

Today, large numbers of Anglicans have come full circle and returned to the Church from which their Fathers in the Faith were torn away by force of arms in 1066. Anglicans now make up the largest single group of converts to the Orthodox Church, and there are hundreds of former Anglican clergy now serving as Orthodox clergy in America alone. In our own Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) two of our bishops are former Anglicans. Former Anglicans have entered both the Eastern and Western Rites, and the English Usage of the Western Rite is in use in both the Patriarchates of Moscow and Antioch.

When I am asked, “Where have all the orthodox Anglicans gone?” My answer is always the same: “To the Orthodox Church!” When an Anglican enters the Orthodox Church he is not “joining a new Church,” but simply coming full circle and healing the breach that was caused by the Norman Conquest in 1066. There is no longer any legitimate reason for any traditional or continuing Anglican to remain separate from the Orthodox Church. The door is wide open for them. They can even preserve and pass on their English and Celtic cultural, liturgical and spiritual heritage and patrimony within the Orthodox Church just as their forefathers in the Faith did during the first millennium of Christianity.

What many people do not realize is that it seems that the British Royal Family may be coming full circle as well. A Roman Catholic publication in the United Kingdom has published an important article about Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. The article s titled, “Defender of the (Eastern) Faith.” The article reads in part:


“What is less well known and understood is the extent to which the Prince feels a deep spiritual connection to Orthodox Christianity. It is this, more than anything else, that explains why he is leading a passionate campaign to save the eastern faithful.

Such is his closeness to the faith that many Greek Orthodox believers think he has secretly converted. If that were true, it would pose a huge constitutional dilemma.

But it is undoubtedly the case that Orthodoxy looms large in Charles’s life and family history. His great-aunts Alexandra and Elizabeth converted to Orthodoxy and are considered martyrs, murdered by the Bolsheviks along with so many of the Prince’s blood relations in Russia.

Charles’s grandmother was an Orthodox nun. Princess Alice, who endured a number of difficulties in her life, including deafness, schizophrenia and the Nazi occupation of her Greek homeland, is considered a Righteous Among the Nations for her role in saving Jews during the War. A woman of noted holiness, she founded an order of nuns in 1949 after her husband Andrew’s death.

When Alice’s youngest child, Philip, married Princess Elizabeth of England, he was required to join the Church of England. But he has maintained links with the Greek Church and there have often been rumours of his return. His mother was given a small Orthodox chapel that she used until her death in 1969, when her remains were buried at a Russian Orthodox convent in Jerusalem, as she had wished.

Prince Charles has always been drawn to Orthodox Christianity’s rugged spirituality. He likes icons and reading the Greek mystics. There are Byzantine images in The Sanctuary, the simple chapel in the grounds of his home at Highgrove House in Gloucestershire, where he goes to pray and meditate. At his marriage to Camilla, the Creed was recited in Old Church Slavonic.

Charles has also received regular visits at Highgrove from Ephraim, abbot of the ninth-century Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos. The Prince flew to Athos a few days after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, a period of intense crisis for him, his children and the whole royal family. Alone with Ephraim in the chamber there, Charles is rumoured to have made a “spiritual commitment” to Orthodoxy. After one of his visits to Mount Athos, a monk was quoted in a newspaper saying Charles was ‘Orthodox in his heart’.”


You can read the full article here:


Recently Prince Charles was in Serbia where he was visiting Orthodox churches and monasteries. On March 23rd an article was published titled, Prince Charles visited Monastery of Holy Archangels in Kovilj, Serbia. You can read it here:


British law currently requires that the British monarch be a member of the Church of England, but the Church of England has lost its way doctrinally, morally and spiritually, and less than a million of its twenty-six million baptized members attend church. The Church of England will undoubtedly soon be disestablished by Parliament as it has little public support, leaving the Crown Prince free to either publicly admit his conversion to Orthodoxy if he has indeed already converted, or to finally come full circle and return to the Orthodox Church. 

The Orthodox Church is the oldest Church in the world. It is the original Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ himself. This is an indisputable fact of history. The Orthodox Church is the “One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” of the Nicene Creed. The doors are wide open, the welcome mat is out, and everyone is welcome. Everyone! 

Not only Anglicans, but the forefathers of all Western Christians were Orthodox Christians before the Great Schism of 1054. Part of our mission is to invite all Western Christians - Anglicans, Protestants and Roman Catholics - clergy and laity alike, to reject the tragic divisions which they have inherited, heed the prayer of our Lord that his disciples may all be one (John 17), embrace the Faith of the "undivided" Church, and come full circle and return to the Church of their Fathers. They will be warmly welcomed with open arms, and with love and great joy, just as we have been. 

We'll leave the light on...

Friday, March 25, 2016

LETTER TO AN EASTERN RITE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN INQUIRING ABOUT WESTERN RITE ORTHODOXY

Dear N._____,
Thank you for your email. It is good to hear from you. I am glad to hear that you found my article on Fr. Novak’s Blog, EVANGELISM EXPLOSION - Orthodox Christianity: Winning the World for Christ! to be a blessing. 

The Western Rite of the Orthodox Church is ancient, and the restoration of it began about a century and a half ago. It is well established today with Western Rite 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. I have written about it  in an article titled, The Western Rite Within the Orthodox Church. It was posted on February 25, 2016, on my blog, Fr. Novak’s Blog. You can find Fr. Novak’s Blog here: http://frnovak.blogspot.com/. Just scroll down to the February 25th posting to read the article.

Two great supporters of Western Rite Orthodoxy were St. John (Maximovitch) of San Francisco and St. Tikhon of America and Moscow. St. John of San Francisco 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."

Today there are Western Rite congregations and monastic communities in the Patriarchate of Antioch  ("Where they were first called Christians")  and in the Russian Orthodox Church (which is the largest autocephalous Orthodox Church and makes up more than half of all Orthodox Christians), as well as in the Romanian and Serbian Patriarchates (in Europe). In the Russian and Antiochian Orthodox Churches there are nine Western Rite monastic communities. 

I have been blessed by Metropolitan Hilarion to be bi-liturgical  — to serve both the Western and Eastern Rites. My parish is a Western Rite congregation. We are an active and thriving parish, and I am the full time rector.

You can learn more about Western Orthodoxy from my parish website:


My blog, Fr. Novak's Blog:


Our parish Facebook page:


The Russian Orthodox Western Rite Communities:


These sites will give you a lot of helpful information. The Western Rite isn't an experiment, it is a restoration of Western Orthodoxy that began a century and a half ago, and its restoration has been supported by hierarchs and Saints. It is a demonstration of the Catholicity of the Orthodox Church. The Church is not just Eastern, it is Catholic (Universal).  

Are you in the greater Omaha area? If so, I hope that you will visit our parish and worship with us. If not, I hope that you will take the opportunity to visit a Western Rite Orthodox church if there is one near you. Western Rite communities are thoroughly Orthodox in Faith, completely canonical, and in full visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church, while preserving their Western cultural, liturgical and spiritual patrimony. Thank you again for writing.

May God grant you every grace and blessing,

Fr. Victor+

Fr. Victor Novak
Rector
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
A Western Rite Parish of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558

Edited for publication.

Friday, March 18, 2016

LENT AT HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH

At Holy Cross Orthodox Church we recently celebrated our third Christmas as an Orthodox parish, and we are now beginning our third Lent (or fourth if you count 2013, when we were in the process of being received into the Orthodox Church and were already under the protection of Bishop Jerome). God has been very good to us!

Shrove Tuesday was a wonderful day at Holy Cross parish. Confessions were heard from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and in the evening we enjoyed our annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. We had visitors, delicious food, and warm fellowship. Shrove Tuesday is an ancient English tradition and a wonderful preparation for Lent which, in the Western Rite, began the next day on Ash Wednesday.

On Ash Wednesday Confessions were again heard from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and in the evening we gathered for worship. The sung Litany was followed by the Blessing and Imposition of Ashes, and the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist.

With Ash Wednesday the Great Fast of Lent has begun, but Lent isn’t a morbid time of suffering in the Orthodox Church - far from it! Holy Lent is a wonderful opportunity for new beginnings in the Christian life; and a time for recommitment, getting our priorities right and focusing on the “the one thing needful.” What is “the one thing needful”? We know from the Gospel that our Lord Jesus Christ visited the home of Martha and Mary in Bethany. While He was there, Mary set aside her normal duties (which were good in themselves) to sit at His feet and listen to His word. Jesus explained that Mary had chosen the one thing needful - listening to the Word of God.

Lent is a time for us to set aside as many of the cares and activities of the world that we can and to focus on “the one thing needful.” Have you purchased a copy of the Orthodox Study Bible? If not, Lent is the perfect time to do so. Take some of the money that you will save on groceries due to the Fast and buy one. You can purchase the Orthodox Study Bible locally at Parable Christian Store, order it from Ancient Faith Publishing, http://store.ancientfaith.com/, or buy it from Amazon. Why the Orthodox Study Bible? Because it is a complete Bible, not a readers digest version with missing books; the Old Testament is the authorized Septuagint version rather than the late Masoretic text; and the study notes are like having a Bible teacher with you in your own home. I encourage everyone to own and use the Orthodox Study Bible.

Already have the Orthodox Study Bible? Then as Blessed Augustine of Hippo was told, “Pick it up and read it.” Make your Lenten resolution be that  you are  going to choose “the one thing needful” - listening to the Word of God. Make time every day to pick up the Holy Bible and read it. 

In addition to the Holy Bible, I encourage you to read at least one good devotional book this Lenten season. I would like to recommend two books that I have read again and again with great profit.

The first is The Way of a Pilgrim and A Pilgrim Continues His Way. This book is a spiritual classic, written by an anonymous 19th century wandering Russian Pilgrim. I first read this book in the 1970s, and I return to it again and again. You can purchase it from Ancient Faith Publishing, from Light and Life Publishing, http://www.light-n-life.com/,  or from Amazon. Do you have a Prayer Rope? The Russians call it a Chotki and the Greeks call it a Comboschini. A Prayer Rope is a string of knots used for praying the Jesus Prayer. While reading The Way of a Pilgrim and A Pilgrim Continues His Way you will learn all about the Jesus Prayer and will find it such a blessing that you will want your own Prayer Rope. You can purchase a Prayer Rope from many sources, including Ancient Faith Publishing, Light and Life Publishing, various monasteries, and Chotki.com, http://www.chotki.com/, which sells Prayer Ropes and has a lot of helpful information on the Jesus Prayer and the Prayer Rope.

The other book that I would like to recommend for you to consider for your Lenten reading is The Confessions of St. Augustine. This book is some sixteen centuries old and is still in print. It is a spiritual classic. The Confessions is not a “tell all” like modern readers may expect, but a very insightful and spiritual autobiography. Through it the reader will see his own past follies, his own wrestling with doubts, mistaken ideas and false choices, and with his own search for Truth. 

The Confessions will help you to see God’s hand on your own life, will encourage you in your daily walk with our Lord and will give you great hope as you too pick up your cross and follow Christ. Fr. Seraphim (Rose) read this important book every Lent and recommended it to others. It is available from many sources, including Amazon, and locally at Gloria Deo Bookstore at 132nd & West Center Road.

The Lenten Fast can seem daunting to some, especially those raising young children, or concerned about working and having little time to plan special meals, or who have special dietary needs - but it doesn’t have to be. The Lenten Fast can be both very simple and spiritually very profitable. Fr. Theodore Liudogovsky, an Orthodox priest in Russia, has written a very helpful article. While written from an Eastern Rite perspective, it will be helpful to Orthodox Christians of whatever rite. The article is called, Simple Fasting, and I hope that you will read it. Here is the link:


This coming Sunday is the First Sunday in Lent. It is also known as the Sunday of Orthodoxy. On the Sunday of Orthodoxy we do not celebrate the triumph of the Orthodox Church over some other church or religion, but over heresy that had risen up within the Orthodox Church in ancient times - specifically the Iconoclast heresy. The Sunday of Orthodoxy is an annual reminder that Christ Himself built His Church, and that the gates of hell can never prevail against it. This is something that we can take great comfort in and should give us great hope.

Jesus Christ is the Truth Revealed, and Orthodox Christianity is the Truth Lived. Lent is here to help us to begin to live the Orthodox Christian Way of Life in its fullness. It’s our Faith, so let’s live it!

There will be no adult Christian Education class on Sunday, March 20, or Sunday, March 27. Christian Ed will resume on Sunday, April 3rd.

Sunday Matins is at 9:15 AM, followed by the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM, with fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall after the Liturgy. Visitors are always welcome. We are a faithful and friendly parish, and we have a place for you. I hope to see you on Sunday!