Friday, February 24, 2017

QUINQUAGESIMA, SHROVE TUESDAY AND ASH WEDNESDAY AT HOLY CROSS PARISH


We have a number of important upcoming events at Holy Cross parish so please read this Update carefully and mark your calendars.

A TIME FOR NEW BEGINNINGS

Lent is a time for New Beginnings. You can make a new start in life, a new beginning in your walk with our Lord, a renewed commitment to Christ and to His Church, or a commitment to deeper conversion and more serious discipleship. Lent is indeed a blessed and holy season. All we need do is cooperate with the grace of God Who loves us and we will grow in the grace and knowledge of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Let us make good use of the Lenten season!

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 26

This coming Sunday is Quinquagesima, the last Sunday in the three week Pre-Lenten Season. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Unction, will be administered during the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist.

This Sunday is also our monthly Potluck Luncheon. As always, members of our church family are asked to bring a Main Dish, or a Side Dish and a Desert. Visitors are our guests and do not have to bring a thing. There is always plenty of good food and warm fellowship so please be sure to invite family and friends. The Christian Life is the Good Life at Holy Cross parish!

SHROVE TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28

This coming Tuesday, February 28th, is Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is the Day before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the first day in Lent in the Western Rite. Shrove Tuesday comes from the word Shrive meaning Confess. 

Aelfric of Eynsham’s "Ecclesiastical Institutes" of about A.D. 1000 says: "In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then may hear by his deeds what he is to do."

Thanks to the good work of our St. Joseph’s Guild, this year we will observe the Shrove Tuesday tradition of the ringing of the church bells (on this day, the toll is known as the Shriving Bell) to call the faithful to confession before the solemn season of Lent. The Shriving Bell will be rung at 11:00 AM on Shrove Tuesday, and  Confessions will be heard from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

Our annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper will be held Tuesday evening at 6:30 PM. If you volunteered to work that evening please be sure to arrive early so the food can be ready to serve at 6:30 PM. Even if you have not volunteered to help out volunteers are always welcome!

The Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper will be the last big and hearty meal before the Great Fast begins on the morning of Ash Wednesday. We will be serving pancakes, eggs, sausage and apple sauce. Pancakes are commonly eaten on this day as they symbolize the "four pillars of the Christian faith--eggs for creation, flour as the mainstay of the human diet, salt for wholesomeness and milk for purity” (Pancake Day 2015, Ross Philip, International Business Times, February 17, 2015).

This is not a fund raiser and there is no cost to come and enjoy this beautiful tradition and delicious meal. Free will offerings will be accepted and will go to support the work of our parish sisterhood - the Sisters of Holy Cross. Do be sure to invite family and friends.

ASH WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1, 6:30 PM

The Holy Season of Lent begins on Wednesday, March 1st. Ash Wednesday Services consisting of the Blessing and Imposition of Ashes, Vespers and the Litany will begin at 6:30 PM. It is very important that we begin Lent properly with prayer and by receiving ashes on the forehead as a sobering reminder of our own mortality, so please mark your calendars and rearrange your schedule so you can attend this important Service. As always, reach out to family and friends and invite them to join us for prayer on Ash Wednesday.

CONFESSIONS

Confessions are heard every Sunday during the Psalms and Canticles at Matins, and as scheduled, and by appointment. 

Sunday Matins

To make your confession at Matins just come forward during the singing of the Psalms  or Canticles and stand before the altar between the two communion rails. The priest will come to meet you. Just open your heart to God and speak quietly. No one will hear you while the Psalms or Canticles are being chanted.

Tuesday, February 28th

The Shriving Bell will be rung on Shrove Tuesday at 11:00 AM, and Confessions will be heard from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

Wednesday, March 1st

Confessions will be heard on Ash Wednesday from 11:30 to 12:30 PM, and during the Psalms and Canticles at Vespers.

Going to Confession is not like going to Court and standing before a Judge. If it were, it would be a Court where the only result is a decree of Pardon. Going to Confession is like going to see a caring Physician. Confession unburdens the mind, heart and soul, and brings freedom, healing and peace. Confession is a wonderful Sacrament. It sets us free!

THE PROPER OBSERVANCE OF LENT

This Sunday during Holy Mass I will be handing out a paper called The Great Fast of Lent, explaining Lenten Fasting and Abstinence according to Western Rite Orthodox Observance, as well as the Spiritual Meaning of Lent. You will find this handout helpful in getting the most out of this Holy Season. May we all have a spiritually profitable and fruitful Lent, and a blessed and joyous Pascha (Easter).

SUNDAY SERVICES

Sunday Matins is at 9:15 AM, followed by the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM, with our monthly Potluck Luncheon immediately after the Liturgy.

During the Potluck Luncheon on Sunday we plan to show a 32 minute film called, From the LITTLE MOUNTAIN - Reflections on Orthodox Christian Monasticism. This beautifully made film takes us through a year at Holy Cross Monastery in West Virginia. Insights about the monastic life from one of the senior monks at the monastery are given as we are visually taken through the liturgical year and the changing seasons in the mountains of West Virginia. The imagery and principles set forth in this unique documentary will help us to make a profitable use of Lent and to grow closer to our Lord in our daily walk with him.

The Orthodox Church welcomes everyone! Holy Cross is a faithful, friendly and vibrant parish community, and we have a place for you. We love being Orthodox! Come and see why. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you on Sunday!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

HOLY CROSS PARISH - A Progress Report And Invitation

This Sunday is Quinquagesima, the last of the three Sundays in the Pre-Lenten season. In the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church Lent will begin on Ash Wednesday, March 1st. 

This year will be our fifth Lent and Pascha as an Orthodox parish. The first year we were under the Protection of Bishop Jerome as we were working through the process of being received into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. This year will be our fourth Lent and Pascha as a full member-parish.

We love being Orthodox! God has been very good to us and our parish is thriving and growing.  

CARE FOR THOSE MOST IN NEED

Holy Cross parish is very active in supporting four area homeless shelters: the Francis (men) and Siena (women and children) House shelters, and the Open Door Mission (men) and Lydia House (women and children) shelters.

Last year we delivered more than $15,000.00 worth of donated gourmet bread to the Francis and Siena Houses. Holy Cross volunteers make bread deliveries to these shelters every Friday and one Saturday of each month. And this is nothing new. We have been doing this now for years. The commitment and dedication of our volunteers is amazing!  

Every year we also collect and deliver large amounts of much needed food for the Open Door Mission and the Lydia House. Every ounce is collected from within our parish and volunteers make deliveries as soon as our parish food bins have been refilled. Over the years we have delivered tons of food to these shelters to feed those most in need.

CHURCH GROWTH

Our Mission at Holy Cross parish is to Proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not know him, and the fulness of the Apostolic Faith to those who do. 

In 2016, we received nine new members into the Orthodox Church and into Holy Cross parish — six adults, two children and an infant — and we ended the year with four catechumens. We are committed to evangelism and advancing the Work of the Great Commission.

OUR PARISH

Members of Holy Cross are of all ages, from pre-born, and infants less than a year old, up to 80 years young. We are white and black, young and seasoned, male and female, urban and rural, and of various professions, both blue and white collar.

Our total membership is in the upper forties, but if you factor in those who regularly attend but are not yet members, we number in the fifties. Holy Cross is a solid, growing and vibrant Christian community.

I am 59 years old, and am the full time Rector of Holy Cross parish. My wife and I will be married for thirty-five years this year. In the Orthodox Church a priest’s wife is called Matushka (mother), and my wife is deeply involved in the work and ministry of our parish.

I am assisted at Holy Cross parish by a Subdeacon, Reader and Cantor/Music Director. We also have a retired priest in the parish. 

We have three very important parish organizations at Holy Cross. These three organizations are our Schola Cantorum, our parish Sisterhood (Women’s Group), and our St. Joseph’s Guild.

We have a vested choir called the Schola Cantorum. The difference between a simple church choir and a Schola Cantorum is that traditionally a Schola Cantorum primarily focuses on ecclesiastical chant, and that is exactly what our Schola does. We use ecclesiastical (Gregorian) chant in all of our Services. 

Our parish Sisterhood is called the Sisters of Holy Cross. As with most Orthodox parishes, I do not know what I would do without our Women’s Group. They are an active part of our ministry and are deeply involved in the work of our parish.

The St. Joseph’s Guild is a parish men’s organization that cares for and beautifies our church facility. They do everything from hanging icons and lampadas, to building church furnishings such as our new Credence Table. Most recently, the Guild has set up a speaker system outside our chapel so those in the parking lot and immediate neighborhood can hear the bells calling the faithful to worship.

OUR WORSHIP

We are a Western Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Our Eucharistic rite is the traditional English Liturgy, commonly called the Liturgy of St. Tikhon. The Liturgy of St. Tikhon is named after Patriarch St. Tikhon of Moscow who made its authorization for use possible.

In 1904, Archbishop Tikhon (Belavin), who was serving in America as Archbishop at the time, and Bishop Raphael (Hawaweeny), assisted by Fr. John Kochuroff, petitioned the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to approve an Orthodox edition of the English Liturgy for use by Western Christians entering the Orthodox Church. All three of these men would later be canonized as Saints.

In 1907, a Commission of the Holy Synod reported in favor of authorizing an Orthodox edition of the traditional English Liturgy for use by Western converts, and set out the criteria for its adaptation for Orthodox use. The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted the report. Today, both the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Antiochian Orthodox Church have Western Rite parishes and monastic communities using the English Liturgy. 

At Holy Cross parish we sing the Divine Office (Vespers and Matins) and the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist (Divine Liturgy/Holy Mass) acapella, using the ancient Gregorian chant and Office Hymns. When we use instrumental music it is for hymns sung outside of the Divine Office and Liturgy. 

Frederica Matthewes-Green described the Western Rite this way: “While you can focus on the differences between Eastern and Western Rite, on a spectrum of all the varieties of Christian worship available today they look a great deal alike... When I get to attend a Western Rite Service I’m struck by the clarity, humility, and tranquility of the worship” (Welcome to the Orthodox Church, p. 55).

During the first millennium of Christianity, Eastern and Western Christendom were fully united. The Christian East and West were different in culture, liturgy and in spirituality, but they were compatible because they were united in Faith and Morals. 

Today the Orthodox East and the non-Orthodox West remain different in culture, liturgy and spirituality, but are no longer compatible because they are no longer united in Faith and Morals. Western Rite Orthodox parishes and monastic communities are fully Orthodox in Faith and Morals, making the Eastern and Western Rites of the Orthodox Church fully compatible. 

The restoration of the Western Rite and Western Orthodoxy is a witness to the catholicity of the Church. As 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.”

OUR CHURCH FACILITY

We currently lease a very nice church facility consisting of a traditional and well furnished chapel, a parish hall, and office and classroom space. We have a large church parking lot and even have covered parking which is a real blessing when there is inclement weather.

Although our current church facility meets our needs very well at present, our goal is to purchase a permanent church building and we have money saved for a down payment. Once a suitable building becomes available we are ready to purchase it.

PARISH LIFE

Our parish life revolves around the Fasts, Feasts and Seasons of the Church Year. We are a Eucharistic community, and the Holy Eucharist is the centre and summit of our spirituality. We encourage frequent Communion and the faithful participation in the full sacramental life of the Church. Our desire is nothing less than to become Saints.

At Holy Cross parish the Sacraments are administered with reverence, the Word of God is proclaimed, and the Orthodox Faith is taught. The Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, commonly called the Divine Liturgy or Holy Mass, is celebrated at least twice every week, and our adult Christian Education class is taught at the college level. 

We have fellowship and refreshments every Sunday after the Liturgy, and a Potluck Luncheon on the last Sunday of every month. Other parish activities include an annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, a Summer Church Picnic, an outing to Werner Park on Faith and Family Night to see the Omaha Storm Chasers play baseball, a Fall Hayrack ride, Bonfire and Potluck at Santa’s Woods, and more. 

The Christian Life is the good life at Holy Cross parish!

OUR INVITATION

If you are looking for a church home where you will be welcomed with open arms, we have a place for you. If you are searching for God, you will find Him here. If you have worshiped with us in the past, but have stopped coming for whatever reason, you can come home again. If you haven’t visited us for while, you are invited to visit us gain.  If you are looking for a Western expression of the Orthodox Faith, you will find it here. Everyone is always welcome at Holy Cross parish, and Lent is a time for New Beginnings.

Sunday Matins is at 9:15 AM, followed by the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. This coming Sunday, February 26th, is our monthly Potluck Luncheon immediately after the Liturgy. Visitors are our guests and do not have to bring a thing. There is always plenty of good food and warm fellowship, so come and bring your family and friends.

Our annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper is Tuesday, February 28th, at 6:30 PM. This is not a parish fund-raiser and the meal is free. Visitors are always welcome. Come, you will have a great time and will be blessed.

Confessions are heard every Sunday during Matins, at other times as scheduled, and by appointment. Confessions will be held on Shrove Tuesday from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

Great Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 1st, with Services and the Imposition of Ashes at 6:30 PM. Lent is a time for New Beginnings and for renewed commitment. There is no better time to begin coming to church, come back to church, or to renew and deepen your relationship within our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Holy Cross Orthodox Church is a faithful, friendly and vibrant parish and we have a place for you. Sunday Liturgy is at 10:00 AM. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

WHAT DO WE MAKE OF THE WESTERN RITE?


An excellent article titled, What Do We Make of the Western Rite?, by Fr. Peter Kavanaugh appeared this morning on Pravmir, an on-line news site of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Pravmir - Orthodox Christianity and the World, is the English-language sister site of Православие и Мир the most visited Orthodox Christian website in Russia today. Its mission is to provide daily high-quality articles in English on how to be an Orthodox Christian in today’s world. It has been online since 2007.

The Western Rite Communities of the Russian Orthodox Church are thriving and growing in North America, the British Commonwealth and on the Continent of Europe. In addition, we have just expanded into Puerto Rico. Through the Western Rite we can share the fullness of the Gospel and the Orthodox Christian Faith with Western peoples in a Western cultural context. 

Western Rite congregations and monastic communities are fully Orthodox in Faith, while preserving their Western cultural, liturgical and spiritual patrimony, in full communion and visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church.

Holy Cross Orthodox Church is a Western Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). We love and value our English and Celtic heritage and use the English Usage of the Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great, commonly called the Liturgy of St. Tikhon.

The West is being re-evangelized and the Western Church rebuilt, and everyone is invited to have a part in this important mission. We celebrate the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist (Holy Mass/Divine Liturgy) every Sunday at 10:00 AM. This coming Sunday, January 29th, is our monthly Potluck Luncheon immediately after the Liturgy. There is always plenty of good food and warm fellowship, and everyone is invited to attend. Holy Cross is a faithful, friendly and active parish, and we have a place for you. I hope to see you on Sunday!

Here is the link to the article, What Do We Make of the Western Rite?, by Fr. Peter Kavanaugh:


Enjoy!

blessings,

Father+

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

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

CHRISTMAS MID-NIGHT MASS, FRIDAY NIGHT, JANUARY 6th

Everyone is invited to join us at Mid-night on Friday, January 6th, for a Christmas Mid-night Mass, followed by a Christmas Party in our parish hall. Visitors are always welcome! 

Why are we celebrating the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on January 7th, rather than December 25th, with most Americans? And why are we asking everyone to stay up so late and to come to church at midnight? These are good questions!

CHRISTMAS ON JANUARY 7th?

We actually are celebrating the Nativity of our Blessed Lord on December 25th according to the ancient Church Calendar. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem the Julian Calendar was in use. All Christians everywhere used the Julian Calendar until late in the 16th century. Even after the Great Schism of 1054, all Christians - Orthodox and Roman Catholics - used the same Julian Calendar until October 1582.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII of Rome unilaterally adopted a New Calendar. This New Calendar was named after him — the Gregorian Calendar - and tragically it furthered the division among Christians. The calendar change was not all that popular in the West, and the New, or Gregorian, Calendar was only adopted gradually. For instance, Denmark, Germany and Norway did not adopt the New Calendar until the year 1700; the British Empire and her American Colonies until 1752, and Sweden until 1753. When the New Calendar was finally adopted in England and America there were riots. 

To summarize, all Christians everywhere were on the same Calendar until 1582. In October of that year Pope Gregory XIII furthered the division among Christians by unilaterally adopting a New Calendar. From 1582 until 1752 Orthodox Christians and Anglicans continued to use the Old Calendar. 

The New Calendar is often referred to as the Civil Calendar while the Old Calendar is often called the Ecclesiastical Calendar. At Holy Cross parish we returned to the Old Calendar when we became an Orthodox parish in 2013. In our English tradition, the word Calendar is often spelled Kalendar.

We still celebrate Christmas on December 25th, but the Old Calendar and the New Calendar differ by thirteen (13) days. So December 25th on the Old Calendar is January 7th on the New Calendar. The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ falls on Saturday, January 7th. So we will gather for a Christmas Midnight Mass on Friday night, January 6th.

Vast numbers of Christians world-wide will be celebrating Christmas with us this week, including the indigenous Christians of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, the Russian Federation, geographically the largest country in the world, Egypt where the Holy Family fled after the slaughter of the Holy Innocents by Herod, and Ethiopia which was brought the Gospel by the Ethiopian Eunuch whose conversion is recorded in the Book of Acts. Many countries will be celebrating Christmas this week, as well as Orthodox Christians in nations all around the world.

While it is sad that Christians are divided as to when they celebrate this important Feast, we do have a spiritual advantage in using the Old Calendar. Christmas has become very commercialized and secularized in the West. It has become more of a civil holiday than a Holy Day. We can celebrate the holiday with our non-Orthodox family and friends, and then we still have two weeks of Advent remaining in which we can focus on Jesus Who is the Reason for the Season, and then celebrate Christ’s Nativity without the commercialism that has long troubled so many serious Christians. We are truly blessed to have returned to the ancient and once universal Christian Calendar. 

WHY A MID-NIGHT MASS?

Although Scripturally the day begins in the evening (Gen. 1:5), Mid-night Mass is a special Christmas Mass. The Gospel according to St. Luke tells us that Jesus was born during the night watch (Luke 2:8); and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is a beautiful Christmas Carol reflecting the tradition that our Lord was born at mid-night. 

Mid-night is the hour traditionally regarded as the time that Jesus was born; and so we gather at mid-night, not because it is the beginning of the day, Scripturally and ecclesiastically it is not, but because it is the time traditionally regarded as the hour of our Lord’s birth.

Being on the Old Calendar we often cannot have a Christmas Mid-night Mass because Old Calendar Christmas is not a civil holiday in America and most people have to get up in the morning and go to work. However, we are blessed that Old Calendar Christmas falls on a Saturday this year so we are able to keep the beautiful tradition of gathering for the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at Mid-night.

Please be sure to invite family and friends to join us this Friday night, January 6th, at Mid-night for a beautiful Christmas Mass, and invite them to remain afterward for a birthday party in our parish hall. Members of our parish family are asked to bring festive food and drink for the Christmas party. Visitors are our guests and do not have to bring a thing.

Christmas is the best time of the year, and as Orthodox Christians we are blessed to be able to celebrate both the civil holiday and the great Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Who can get enough of Christmas??? Just think how we could change the world if we each lived as though every day was Christmas!

CHRISTMAS MID-NIGHT MASS, FRIDAY NIGHT, JANUARY 6th  

Our church is beautifully decorated, and the smell of pine fills the air. Prayer in this holy place will fill you with the spirit of peace on earth, and good will toward men. Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary some 2,000 years ago, but that will do us little good unless He is also conceived within our hearts. Do you have room in the Inn of your heart for the Christ-child?

I’ll be looking forward to seeing you at Mid-night on Friday, January 6th, for the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. It will be a beautiful sung Mass. Our Processional Hymn is the beloved, O Come All Ye Faithful and our Recessional Hymn is another beloved hymn, Angels We Have Heard On High. A Christmas Mid-night Mass is a deeply moving experience for kids of all ages, from one to one hundred and one! Come and worship our New Born King and then remain to celebrate the birth of our Redeemer with a party in our parish hall. To truly keep Christ in Christmas we must also keep the Mass in Christmas.

Until then, continue to focus on Jesus who is the Reason for the Season. As I write this I am listening to Christmas music and our Christmas tree is glowing with bright coloured lights. At this moment the beautiful carol, What Child is this? is playing. Last night Matushka and I watched one of our favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. The Christmas celebration will last for twelve beautiful days after the Feast of the Nativity, taking us all the way to the Feast of Epiphany (Theophany). This is indeed the most wonderful time of the year, and I confess that I can’t get enough of the Advent and Christmas seasons!

For God so loved the world that he gave His only-begotten Son. O Holy Night! O come all ye faithful! 

Everyone is invited. There are no outcasts. The Orthodox Church welcomes everyone. Come to the stable! We’ll be looking forward to seeing you soon.


HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
A Western Rite parish of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR)
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558

Friday, December 9, 2016

HOLY CROSS UPDATE - ADVENT SEASON


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.

ADVENT

This coming Sunday is the First Sunday in Advent. Advent is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas, and  begins with the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s Day. 

Advent means “Coming” in Latin. There are two meanings of “coming” that Christians think about in Advent. The first, and most commonly thought of, happened some 2000 years ago when Jesus was born of Mary. The second and primary meaning is the coming that will take place in the future when our Lord Jesus Christ comes back to the world as King and Judge, to usher in the Kingdom of God in its fullness. 

Advent is a time of spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ as King and Judge. The liturgical colour is royal purple, the Advent Wreath is lit, in the English Liturgy the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) is added while the Gloria in Excelsis is omitted. Traditionally there are four themes in our preparation for the Return of the King: Death, Judgement, Hell and Heaven. Advent is a time for repentance (changing direction) and deeper conversion.

Advent is also the beginning of the Church Year in the Western Rite. That makes it a time for new beginnings. If you, a family member, or a friend, have not been attending church, have not been coming to church regularly, have not worshipped at Holy Cross parish for a while, or have never visited, there is no better time to make a new beginning than in Advent. I hope that you will accept my personal invitation to join us this Sunday and that you will invite your  family and friends. The Christian life is the Good Life, and the Orthodox Catholic Church welcomes everyone!

CHRISTMAS MIDNIGHT MASS

A Midnight Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist for the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be held Friday night, January 6th, at Midnight. January 7th on the civil calendar is December 25th on the ancient Christian (Julian) Calendar that all Christians used until late in the 16th century and many millions of Christians continue to use. A Christmas party in the parish hall will follow the Liturgy. Please mark your calendar and plan to join us for this ancient Western Orthodox Christmas tradition. Invite your family and friends. They will be blessed. O Come all ye faithful!

SOCK, GLOVE AND MITTEN DRIVE

Our parish Women’s group, the Sisters of Holy Cross, is sponsoring a Sock, Glove and Mitten Drive during the first two weeks of Advent. This drive is to collect these much needed clothing items for the Salvation Army. Every night Salvation Army volunteers go out into the streets in an effort to  help the homeless shivering in the cold. The Salvation Army provides them with food, a warm drink, and tries to help with clean socks, gloves and mittens.

This Sunday you will find a special box in our parish hall for donations of new socks, gloves and mittens. Matushka and I have already been shopping in support of this important cause. I hope that you will join us in providing those most in need with these basic items that we all take for granted. Let’s do all the good we can for all the people we can. Thank you!

PARISH FOOD BINS

Paul N. delivered our latest donation of food from our parish Food Bins to the Open Door Mission last week. Our latest donation totaled 273 pounds of much needed food. A big thank you to everyone who contributed!

With the coming of winter the need for food at the Open Door Mission always increases. We need to begin refilling our parish food bins right away so as to help meet this need. Please bring a donation of food with you on Sunday. Thank you!

BREAD DELIVERIES

Our weekly deliveries of donated gourmet bread to the Francis and Siena House Shelters continues. Each year Holy Cross parishioners delivery thousands of dollars worth of donated bread to these shelters. Pick ups are made every Thursday evening, with deliveries made on Friday. In addition, another delivery is made one Saturday per month. We have been making these deliveries for some years now and the dedicated parishioners who carry out this work week after week, month after month and year after year are the often unnoticed heros of our parish. Please join me in offering a big Thank You to Coordinator Paul N. and his dedicated team! 

THE CONVERSION OF RUSSIA

Many Christians in the West are still praying for the Conversion of Russia, but they are way behind the times. Rather than praying for the Conversion of Russia, Western Christians should be offering thanksgiving for the Conversion of Russia and praying for the Conversion of post-Christian Western Europe and North America.  

With the fall of Soviet Communism more than a quarter of a century ago a great spiritual revival began in Russia. Since the end of Soviet Communism the Orthodox Church in Russia has opened three churches per day, each and every day. When I am speaking of churches I do not mean a handful of people meeting in someones home, but real brick and mortar church buildings. In addition, some 800 monasteries have been opened, as have dozens of seminaries and theological schools, as well as large numbers of private church schools. Christian Education is even being taught in the public schools! 

In just over a quarter of a century the Russian Orthodox Church has gone from a marginalized and persecuted minority with millions of martyrs, to a Church of more than 162 million members world-wide; and this revival has spread to all of the traditionally Orthodox countries of Eastern Europe that had suffered behind the Iron Curtain, and is spreading all around the globe to every continent on earth. Russia has indeed been converted and the Orthodox Church is experiencing a New Pentecost.

And Now a  “Gigantic, Super-Ornate New Church Built By Monks To Open Soon Next To KGB in Moscow. An enormous new church has been built in record-breaking time in central Moscow a few blocks from the historic [former] KGB headquarters on Lyubanka Square. The church commemorates Christian victims of the revolution and subsequent persecution.” You can read all about it and see the incredible photographs here:


The kind of growth the Russian Orthodox Church is experiencing is unprecedented in history, and has never been equalled even in the era of the early Church. The Apostles turned the world up-side-down and with this New Pentecost it is happening again - and we are part of it! 

Come and join this incredible move of the Holy Spirit, and us in our work of re-evangelizing the post-Christian West. The Orthodox Church welcomes everyone!

FACEBOOK

Are you following our parish Facebook page? You should be. It is updated every week and often two or three times per week. I encourage you to become a follower of our Facebook page. PLEASE go to the Holy Cross Parish Facebook page and “Like” the page (not just an individual article). Doing something as simple as this will help us to  advance the Work of the Great Commission. Please do it now. Here is the link:


ADULT CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

This Sunday we will begin a series of adult Christian Education classes on the theme of Advent and Christmas. The classes will be taught by Ben J. Ben is a popular teacher at Holy Cross and with a Master’s in History he knows his material well. After all, properly understood, History is “His story” - the story of God’s work in the world. Class begins at 8:45 AM this coming Sunday and will run through Nativity. I hope that you will join me for this fun and informative class. You will be blessed!

SUNDAY SERVICES

Sunday Christian Education 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 is a faithful, friendly and vibrant parish, and we have a place for you. Everyone is invited. I hope to see you on Sunday!

blessings,

Father+

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

Friday, November 4, 2016

IMPORTANT NEWS FROM JERUSALEM

I am attaching for you a link to a “must read” article from Jerusalem titled, UNSEALING OF CHRIST'S REPUTED TOMB TURNS UP NEW REVELATIONS.

Researchers have continued their investigation into the site where the body of Jesus Christ had been buried by St. Joseph of Arimathea, and last week they unsealed the tomb. Their findings confirm that portions of the original tomb are still present today, having survived centuries of damage, destruction, and reconstruction of the surrounding Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City.

You will want to read this important article, see the photographs and watch the amazing two and a half minute video. Then you will want to send it out to everyone you know.

The Holy Sepulchre has been under the care of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Mother Church of all Christendom, since the earliest times. 

Did you know that as an Orthodox Christian you can receive Holy Communion in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest place on earth, the place of our Lord’s burial and Resurrection? Did you know that as an Orthodox Christian you can receive Holy Communion at St. Catherine’s Orthodox Monastery - the oldest functioning monastery in Christendom - on Mount Sinai where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments? Did you know that as an Orthodox Christian you belong to the indigenous Church of Jerusalem, the Holy Land and the Middle East with an unbroken existence dating back to our Lord and His apostles? 

Did you know that the Church did not originate in Rome, Augsburg, Geneva, Canterbury, or in the United States, but in Jerusalem and the Holy Land some 2,000 years ago? Did you know that as an Orthodox Christian you belong to the oldest Church in the world, the original Church founded by Christ Himself? You do. 

Is this important? What could be more important than to belong to the Church Christ Himself established, which is His Body of which He is Head, and which bears His Divine promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against and that He will return for as a Bridegroom coming for His bride? To my readers who are not yet Orthodox Christians let me say that you too can come home to this Church. The doors are wide open. The welcome mat is out. The Orthodox Catholic Church welcomes everyone. We have a place for you. What are you waiting for? Come and see!

Here is the link to this important article and video:


SUNDAY SERVICES

Sunday Christian Education 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 our parish hall follow the Liturgy. If you have never visited Holy Cross parish or haven’t worshipped with us lately, please accept my personal invitation to worship with us this Sunday. We are a faithful, friendly and vibrant parish and we have a place for you. 

See you on Sunday!

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

Thursday, October 27, 2016

THE ANGLICAN CONVERT MOVEMENT AND THE RESTORATION OF WESTERN RITE ORTHODOXY - A Fulfillment of Ancient Prophecy

The Anglican Convert Movement

Today Anglicans make up the largest single group of converts to the Orthodox Church. They are everywhere, and are found among the laity and clergy in both the Eastern and Western Rites of the Church. Orthodox Archpriest Josiah Trenham, himself a former Anglican 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 that were previously Episcopal clergy is certainly in the hundreds”(1). In the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) alone, we have many clergymen who are converts from Anglicanism, including two bishops: Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) and Bishop Jerome (Shaw), and the Dean of our Western Rite Communities, Fr. Mark Rowe, who is a former Anglican priest and Archdeacon. 

There are more former Anglicans in the Orthodox Church today than there are Continuing Anglicans. This is true in both North America and the United Kingdom, and the Anglican convert movement is not just an Anglo-Catholic phenomenon. In the United Kingdom the Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy movement that brought such a wave of Anglicans into the Orthodox Church was led by Fr. Michael Harper. Fr. Michael Harper was a Evangelical Anglican and served with the Rev. John Stott on the staff of All Souls parish, Langham Place. He had been a leader of the Evangelical movement and had been an Anglican priest for nearly forty years when he was received into the Orthodox Church. You can read all about Fr. Michael Harper and the Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy in his book,  “A Faith Fulfilled - Why Are Christians Across Great Britain Embracing Orthodoxy?”  When I am asked, “Where have all the traditional Anglicans gone?” My answer is always the same: To the Orthodox Church!

A New Pentecost

The Anglican convert movement is part of the New Pentecost that began in the Orthodox Church with the fall of Soviet Communism.

On October 11, 2016, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, spoke about religious faith in Russia, its history and revival in recent decades at a meeting with a group of professors and 250 students from Italy. 

Metropolitan Hilarion said, “The epoch which we call ‘the second Baptism of Russia’ begun in our Church in 1988. The mass baptism of our population started in Russia in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s,” 

“Today we have 35,000 churches. That means that we have opened 29,000 churches over twenty-eight years, opening more than 1,000 churches per year or three per day… Earlier we had three theological seminaries or academies, and today there are over fifty,” the metropolitan stressed.

He said, Russian history has “never witnessed such growth in religious faith as we have seen in the past twenty-eight years.”

“More than that, I know no other precedent of this kind anywhere throughout the history of mankind. We are aware that the epoch of St. Constantine the Great in the fourth century was a time when churches were built everywhere and mass baptisms took place. But there is no statistics for that period, while we do have statistics for the epoch we live in,” he added.

Noting that today many say that modern society lives in the post-Christian era, Metropolitan Hilarion said that this is not felt in Russia. “With our own eyes we have seen the power of Christianity which enables us to open three churches per day today. We have witnessed how Christianity transforms human lives, to what extent Christ and His teaching are still important nowadays.”

This New Pentecost has spread throughout the Orthodox world and into America. Today in the United States 23% of all Orthodox Christians - about one in four - are converts, as are 30% of the Orthodox clergy and 43% of Orthodox seminarians. These statistics are staggering! This is a tremendous move of the Holy Spirit. 

The restoration of the Orthodox Western Rite which was essentially lost to the Orthodox Church on the continent of Europe in 1054, due to the Papal Schism, and in the British Isles in 1066, because of the Norman Invasion and Conquest, is part of this New Pentecost. But the restoration of English Orthodoxy in our day is also a fulfillment of ancient prophecy.

Ancient Prophecy Fulfilled

St. Edward the Confessor was the next to the last of the Orthodox Kings of England. He died on January 6, 1066, and William the Conqueror was crowned a year and a day later on January 7, 1067. The last Orthodox King of England, the Royal Passion-bearer King Harold Godwinson, had died in battle on October 14, 1066 defending Orthodox England from the Norman Invaders.

St. Edward the Confessor had been given a prophecy on his death bed. Much of the prophecy was fulfilled soon after his death, but the last part, the most important part, is only being fulfilled in our day.

In early January, 1066, the holy King of England, St. Edward the Confessor, was confined to his bed by his last illness in his royal palace at Westminster. St. Aelred, Abbott of Rievaulx, in Yorkshire, relates that a short time before his death, this holy king had a vision and was given a prophecy.

St. Edward the Confessor said, “Just now two monks stood before me, whom I had once known very well when I was a young man in Normandy, men of great sanctity, and for many years now relieved from earthly cares. And they addressed me with a message from God. ‘Since,’ they said, ‘those who have climbed to the highest offices in the Kingdom of England, the earls, the bishops and abbots, and all those in Holy Orders, are not what they seem to be, but on the contrary, are servants of the Devil, on a year and one day after the day of your death God has delivered all this kingdom, cursed by Him, into the hands of the enemy, and devils shall come through all this land with fire and sword and the havoc of war.’ Then I said to them, ‘I will show God’s design to the people, and the forgiveness of God shall have mercy upon the penitents. For He had mercy on the people of Nineveh, when they repented on hearing the Divine indignation.’ But they said, ‘These will not repent, nor will the forgiveness of God come to pass for them.’ ‘And what,’ I asked, ‘shall happen? And when can a remission of this great indignation be hoped for?’ ‘At that time,’ they answered, ‘when a green tree, if cut down in the middle of its trunk, and the part cut off carried the space of three furlongs from the stock, shall be joined again to the trunk, by itself and without the hand of man or any sort of stake, and begin once more to push leaves and bear fruit from the old love of its uniting sap, then first can a remission of these great ills be hoped for’” (2).

After having heard these prophetic words, King Edward opened his eyes, returned to his senses, and the vision vanished. He immediately related all he had seen and heard to his spouse, Edgitha, to Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, and to Harold Godwinson, his successor to the throne, who were in his chamber praying around his bed.

The Norman Conquest culminated at the pseudo-council of Westminster in 1070, when papal legates deposed the Orthodox Archbishop of Canterbury Stigand, who had refused to crown the usurper, William of Normandy as King of England. Archbishop Stigand was replaced on the throne of St. Augustine of Canterbury by Llanfranc, another Norman usurper. All but one of the English bishops had been imprisoned and replaced by the Norman invaders, and on October 15, 1072, the last surviving English Orthodox Bishop, Ethelric of Durham, died in prison after anathematizing pope. 

The interpretation of this vision is clear. St. Edward the Confessor died on January 6, 1066. Exactly one year and one day later, as foretold, on January 7, 1067, the Norman usurper, William of Normandy, was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey. The Normans, who had already inflicted a great deal of destruction on Saxon England during the invasion, unleashed a terrible campaign of pillage, terror and death upon the English people, their Church and its clergy. This part of the prophecy was fulfilled long ago, and the suffering of the English people at the hands of the Norman conquerors is a fact of history. The last part of this prophecy however, is only being fulfilled in our day.

The severance of the green tree from its trunk signifies the separation of the English Church from the rest of the Orthodox Church by the papal crusade known as the  Norman Conquest. This tree was to be separated from its life-giving trunk the distance of "three furlongs," Geographically, the English Church would be far separated from its Orthodox trunk. But, it “shall be joined again to the trunk, by itself and without the hand of man.” Despite the fact that there had been no organized outreach to them and no formal reunion discussions, traditional Anglicans are reuniting with the Orthodox Church as Western Rite Orthodox Christians, and this movement continues to grow and spread throughout what had been the Anglican world. This is a move of the Holy Spirit, not the work of man.

Having been restored, according to the prophecy, they shall “begin once more to push up leaves,” showing new life, “and bear fruit,” of sanctity and good works. How will this fruit bearing life be renewed? The prophecy is clear: “from the love of its uniting sap, then first can a remission of these greater ills be hoped for.” Its “uniting sap” is the Faith of the undivided Church, the Orthodox Catholic Faith, and the grace-bearing Holy Sacraments.

Western Rite Orthodox Christians hold the same Faith as Eastern Rite Orthodox Christians. There can never be any compromise in matters of the Orthodox Faith. It is this deposit of Faith, this “uniting sap” that binds together Orthodox Christians  regardless of rite, jurisdiction or ethnicity. 

The English Liturgy, commonly called the Liturgy of St. Tikhon in honour of the Saint whose efforts made its authorization by the Orthodox Church possible, along with the Sarum Usage of the Western Rite, and the traditional Roman Rite have all been restored to the Orthodox Church and authorized for use. In fulfillment of the prophecy of St. Edward the Confessor, the English cultural, liturgical and spiritual patrimony has been restored in full sacramental communion and visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church. 

The restoration of Western Orthodoxy has been the culmination of a long journey home. The English Reformation which began in 1534, was very different from that on the Continent. In England the Reformation was carried out by the bishops themselves and no new Church was formed. The aim of the English Reformation was restoration - the restoration of the Faith of what is commonly called the undivided Church.

By 1534, the English Church had been separated from its Orthodox roots by almost five centuries; and England was geographically far removed from the Orthodox world, with hostile Roman Catholic powers in between. Reformation is never easy, and under these circumstances was very difficult. Mistakes and missteps were made, but much good was also accomplished.

The work of the English Reformation - really Restoration - was advanced in the 17th century by the Caroline Divines, and then in 18th century by the Non-Jurors. It continued to advance in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries with the Oxford Movement; and then in the latter half of the 20th and into the 21st centuries in the Continuing Anglican Movement. The St. Louis Church Congress of 1977, and the Continuing Anglican Movement that it gave birth to, brought the remnant of faithful Anglicans to the very door of the Orthodox Church, with large numbers of Anglicans stepping through that door and coming home. 

 You Can Come Home Again

The English patrimony has been re-grafted onto the Orthodox trunk. With the restoration of the Western Rite in general and the English Liturgy in particular, the fulness of the English cultural, liturgical and spiritual heritage and patrimony has been restored to the Orthodox Church - and it is growing and thriving, beginning “once more to push leaves and bear fruit from the old love of its uniting sap” as St. Edward the Confessor foretold.

When concerned Episcopalians left the Episcopal Church after the 1976 General Convention due to that body’s apostasy, they likened their Continuing Anglican Movement to Israel’s Exodus from bondage in Egypt. The St. Louis Church Congress in 1977, which gave birth to the Movement issued an historic declaration called, “The Affirmation of St. Louis.” In The Affirmation of St. Louis, acceptance of seven Sacraments, seven Oecumenical Councils, Holy Tradition, the Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins, and the Fathers and Doctors of the undivided Church was affirmed; and in two places in that Affirmation reunion with Christians who held the same Faith was called for. The Affirmation of St. Louis has been called the most Orthodox theological statement ever adopted by a non-Orthodox Church, and it is clear that the fathers of the Continuing Anglican Movement saw reunion with the Orthodox Church as their goal because only the Orthodox Church  professes seven Oecumenical Councils.

Continuing Anglicans left their Egypt a generation ago and have been wandering in the wilderness ever since. Like Israel of old though, there is a great danger of getting used to living in the wilderness and becoming comfortable there.   

Traditional Anglicans who have been praying and waiting for reunion with the Orthodox Church have had their prayers answered and need wait no longer. The Vision Glorious of the Oxford Movement and the goal of The Affirmation of St. Louis can now be fulfilled. You too can come home again with the fulness of your patrimony, and if you are a clergyman you can continue your ministry in the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Creeds. Many of us have already come home, and we have prepared a place for you.

The future of traditional Anglicans and of the English spiritual tradition is in full sacramental communion and visible unity with Orthodox Church from which our forbearers in the Faith were torn away against their will by the Norman Conquest. The Western Rite Communities of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are thriving and growing. With the fall of communism the world-wide Orthodox Church is experiencing a New Pentecost. You too can be a part of this tremendous move of the Holy Spirit. For more information please visit the website of the ROCOR Western Rite Communities: http://www.rocor-wr.org/ or contact me directly. You will be glad you did.


NOTES

  1. Rock and Sand, An Orthodox Appraisal of the Protestant Reformers and Their Theology, by Archpriest Josiah Trenham, Newrome Press, c. 2015, p. 193.
  2. Vita Edwardi Regis, ca. 1065-1067, Nelson Medieval Texts, 1962; cited in Saints of England’s Golden Age, by Vladimir Moss, B.A. (Oxon.). Ph.D (Surrey), Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, c. 1997, p. 251.