Tuesday, May 19, 2015

WESTERN RITE NEWS

Western Rite Orthodoxy continues to grow and the Western Church continues to be rebuilt. So far in May there have been three Western Rite ordinations, with another ordination to the priesthood  scheduled for later in the month. In addition, two new mission congregations have been established — one in Georgia and the other in West Virginia. All of the ordinations were conducted by His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion.

Joseph (Burt) Weigen was ordained to the order of Subdeacon. Subdeacon Joseph has been assigned to serve at Christminster, an Orthodox Benedictine monastery in Niagra Falls, New York.

Matthias (Miles) Brookes was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood and assigned to minister in the Maine Missions. Fr. Matthias was an Anglican clergyman for over 30 years.

Nicholas Poulin was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood and assigned to minister in the Maine Missions.

Metropolitan Hilarion also issued decrees establishing two new mission congregations: The Western Rite Mission of St Mary the Virgin in Madison, Georgia, with Fr Irenaeus Watson as Priest in Charge; and the Western Rite Mission of St Patrick in Parkersburg West Virginia, with Fr Mark Rowe as Priest in Charge and Gregory Myers as the local contact. Fr. Mark Rowe is a former Anglican priest and is Dean of the ROCOR Western Rite parishes in North America and the United Kingdom.

With six ordinations in December and four more in May, there will have been ten Western Rite ordinations in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) in the last six months.

Next month will be two years since Holy Cross became a Western Rite Orthodox parish. We were received into ROCOR from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in June of 2013. Anglicans and other Western Christians can now enter the Orthodox Church while preserving their Western cultural, liturgical and spiritual heritage and patrimony. 

The Orthodox Church is growing rapidly all around the world with some 300 million members. The Russian Orthodox Church alone, with 165 million members, is more than twice the size of the entire Anglican Communion! In the United States there are around 2,000 local congregations and some 80 monastic communities, with hundreds more in Canada. There are many parochial schools, two colleges and more than half a dozen seminaries, plus distance learning programs. There are mission agencies, college ministries, prison ministries, publishing houses, military chaplaincies, and much, much more. In the United States 23% (nearly one in four!) of Orthodox Christians are converts. In our own Synod, three bishops are converts: two from Anglicanism and one from Roman Catholicism. There are dozens of Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in North America, with more in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and on the Continent of Europe, and our numbers keep growing.

The Western Church is being rebuilt and we have a part in it. This is the true Reformation and Restoration that so many Western Christians have prayed and longed for. It is a move of the Holy Spirit. Wouldn't it be a blessing to be part of a move of the Holy Spirit? To be a part of making Church history? You can be. The door is open, the welcome mat is out, and there is room for all who would faithfully follow Christ. Everyone is welcome. No one is excluded. Come and see!

Friday, May 1, 2015

HOW ARE WE SAVED AND WHAT IS SALVATION?

For the past 500 years Western Christians have been debating how we are saved. Protestants see salvation as something completely external to man, and profess the doctrine that we are saved by faith alone. To illustrate this, Dr. Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, described Christians as “dunghills covered by snow.”

Roman Catholics on the other hand have insisted that man is saved by faith and good works. Of course no one knows how many good works are necessary for salvation. Roman Catholics are taught that it is necessary to have faith and to live a good moral life. 

What does the Orthodox Church teach about salvation? The Orthodox Church does not teach that we are saved by faith alone, or by faith and good works. The Orthodox Church teaches that we are saved by Jesus Christ.

Salvation is described as theosis. Through Christ we may be born from above, enter into union with God, be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4), and become by grace what Jesus Christ is by nature. The Good News is not that we are saved in our sins (dunghills covered by snow), or that we can improve morally and become better people through faith in Christ; but that we can become a new creation in Christ. This is the teaching of the Church of the first millennium (the “Undivided” Church), and it remains the teaching of the Orthodox Church today.

The goal of the English Reformation was to restore the Faith and Order of the "Undivided" Church. Some Anglicans understand this. Most however, have never understood this or have forgotten it. Most  have become involved in the Reformation/Post Reformation debates, see Anglicanism as an “ism,” and are content in their own separate denomination. Even if they call it a "branch," it is a branch broken from the Vine. Most Anglicans have come to accept either the Protestant view that we are saved by faith alone, or the Roman Catholic teaching that we are saved by faith and good works.

CS Lewis was one of those Anglicans who understood the goal of the English Reformation, and embraced the Faith of the “Undivided” Church of the first millennium. Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) says, "Again and again we have found that CS Lewis articulates a vision of Christian truth which a member of the Orthodox Church can whole heartedly endorse. His starting point may be that of a Western Christian, but repeatedly his conclusions are Orthodox, with a large as well as a small 'o'."

In his classic work, Mere Christianity, CS Lewis dealt with salvation as theosis. He wrote:

“‘Niceness’—wholesome, integrated personality—is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power to produce a world whereas many people as possible grow up ‘nice’; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save. 


“For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders—no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings—may even give it an awkward appearance” - Book IV, ch. 10.

“People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’ I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature…Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other” - Book III, ch. 4.

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible” - Book III, ch. 9.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself” - Book IV, ch. 9.

CS Lewis’ understanding of salvation as theosis was the understanding of the Church of the first millennium in both the East and the West, including that of Blessed Augustine of Hippo. St. Augustine has been misused by both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. This is obvious from the fact that though claiming him as their own they have come to opposite theological conclusions! 

The Protestant Reformers used proof texts from the writings of St. Augustine, usually from his writings against the Pelagians, to support their novel teachings; while Roman Catholicism reads St. Augustine through the later Schoolmen (Scholasticism) rather than letting him speak for himself. 

Some Christians even claim that St. Augustine was responsible for the theological divisions between Eastern and Western Christendom, but that is not correct. George Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou wrote, “[Georges] Florovsky [the great Russian Orthodox theologian] did not hold Augustine responsible for the theological divisions between eastern and western christianity. Otherwise, it would be difficult to imagine Florovsky referring to Augustine as ‘a Father of the Church Universal’” (Orthodox Readings of Augustine, SVS Press, 2008, p. 27). 

Regarding salvation as theosis, St. Augustine wrote: 

“O men and women, do not cease to hope that you can become children of God, because the very Son of God - that is, God’s Word - has been made flesh and has dwelt among us. Make your return to him; become spirit and dwell in him who has become flesh and dwelt among you. For we have no reason not to hope that by participating in the Word, we humans can become children of God, since the Son of God, by participating in our flesh, has become a son of man. We changeable beings, therefore, transformed into something better, become participants in the Word. For the unchangeable Word, not at all transformed for the worse, was made a sharer in flesh through the mediation of a rational soul” - Ep. 140, to Honoratus.

St. Augustine teaches that we become children of God by participation in the Word who, “being made a partaker of our mortality, made us partakers in his divinity” - Trin. 4.2.4

CS Lewis is not the only Anglican who understood salvation as theosis, “one can find it as a recurring theme within Anglicanism: in Lancelot Andrewes (17th c.), the hymnody of John and Charles Wesley (18th c.), Edward B. Pusey (19th c.), and A. M. Allchin and E. Charles Miller (20th c.)” - Theosis, Orthodoxwiki. 

For those Anglicans who understand the goal of the English Reformation and, like CS Lewis, have embraced the faith of the "Undivided" Church without addition or diminution, it is possible to unite with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church while preserving their English and Celtic cultural, liturgical and spiritual heritage and patrimony. There are now Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in North America, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and on the continent of Europe, and our numbers are growing.

Redemption means much more than forgiveness of sins and moral improvement, as important as they are. Redemption means living in union with God, partaking of the Divine nature, and becoming a new creation. As CS Lewis said, “For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A BROKEN BRANCH GRAFTED IN

We are blessed at Holy Cross parish. Two years ago we were part of a small English and Celtic (Anglican) branch torn from the Vine, struggling merely to hold onto the faith while our broken branch was tossed about by every wind of doctrine. Today, we are reunited with Orthodox Christians around the world. No longer a broken branch, we have been grafted back into the Vine and are now in full sacramental communion with first century Orthodox Christian communities in the Holy City of Jerusalem, the mother Church of Christendom; Antioch where the book of Acts says the disciples were first called Christians; and Egypt where the Evangelist St. Mark brought the Gospel. We are now fully united with hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians on every Continent on earth! 

We have a family in the parish traveling to Italy this summer and they asked me to find a church for them to attend. I sent them contact information for 167 Orthodox parishes in Italy. I could have found more, but I thought that should give them enough choices! Here in the United States there around 2,000 congregations, with hundreds more in Canada, along with about eighty monastic communities. We have two colleges, many seminaries (plus distance education opportunities), and parochial schools.

By being grafted back into the Orthodox Church from which our English (Anglican) forbearers were torn away against their will by the Norman Conquest in AD 1066, we have not abandoned our English and Celtic heritage and patrimony, but preserved it. Reunited with the whole, the Holy Spirit has breathed new life into Western Orthodoxy and the Western Church is being rebuilt. This is an exciting time to be alive. Rather than circling our wagons and trying to merely hang on and preserve our Faith and patrimony as we had been forced to do for a generation, we are part of a new movement of the Holy Spirit and have a role in rebuilding the Western Church. There are already dozens of Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in North America, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and on the Continent of Europe, and this is just the beginning. We are finally free to flourish in union with the whole. We no longer have to fight our own Church - our Church fights for us!

Our Lord founded His Church nearly 2,000 years ago, promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against it, commanded that we "hear [obey] the Church," and said that He would be with His Church until the end of the age when He returns to inaugurate His Kingdom in its fullness. For a thousand years there was essentially one Church. There were five regional Patriarchates or administrative centers in the Church: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria in Egypt, Antioch, and Jerusalem. In AD 1054, Rome unilaterally changed the Nicene Creed and fell away from unity, eventually becoming known as the Roman Catholic Church. The other four Patriarchates, 80% of the Church, maintained the Creed as written and is known as the Orthodox (Right Worship/Right Belief) Church or the Orthodox Catholic Church. In 1054, the English Church (ecclesia anglicana) did not accept the Roman innovations and remained loyal to the Orthodox Christian Faith. This led to the Norman Conquest in 1066. All but one of the native English bishops were replaced by Normans and the Church of England was forced into submission.

After Rome changed the Nicene Creed the Roman Church continued to make changes in the Faith leading to the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Reformation shattered Western Christendom like a hammer blow against a glass window. Today, according to the journal First Things, there are 45,000 divided and competing Western Christian denominations, with an expected 70,000 by 2050. These 45,000 are denominations, and this number does not take into consideration the vast numbers of independent, interdenominational and nondenominational local congregations. In addition to all of this chaos, there remains the one Orthodox Catholic Church, still unchanged and unchanging, earnestly contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3) and committed to the Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins that the Catholic Faith is that which has been believed, "everywhere, always and by all."

It is no longer necessary to become Eastern in order to be an Orthodox Christian. The Western Church which fell away in 1054, is being rebuilt. St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco said, "Never, never, never let anyone tell you that in order to be Orthodox you must be Eastern. The West was Orthodox for a thousand years." 

A visit to Holy Cross parish on a Sunday morning will find us worshipping according to the English Use of the Western Rite. The Music we use for the Ordinary of the Mass is the familiar Merbecke, with Gregorian chant used for the Propers. There are no "cradle Orthodox" at Holy Cross parish. We are all converts. We come from backgrounds as different as Anglican is from Baptist, and the Assemblies of God from Roman Catholicism, yet we have all united together on the basis of the Faith and Order of the Undivided Church. 

John Paul II had said, "If at the beginning of the third millennium we are to overcome the divisions of the second millennium, we must return to the consensus of the first millennium." What he said was true. We have embraced the consensus of the first millennium — and we invite you to do the same. Whatever your Christian tradition may be today, your ancestors were Orthodox Christians until at least 1054.

The doors to Holy Cross parish and to the Western Rite of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) are wide open, the welcome mat is out, and the lights are on. Everyone is always welcome. Join with us and become a part of rebuilding the Western Church in America and throughout the Western world. This is a move of the Holy Spirit and you can have a part in it! 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

EASTER SUNDAY (April 12th) SERVICES

Sunday, April 12th, is Easter Sunday. We will celebrate a Solemn Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM, followed by fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall. Easter Sunday, known anciently as Holy Pascha, the Christian Passover, is the Feast of Feasts. It is the most important day in human history! You will not want to miss it!!!

There will be joyous Easter hymns, Gregorian chant, Paschal Scripture readings, an uplifting sermon, the blessing of Holy Communion, red Easter Eggs, and refreshments and warm fellowship in our parish hall. The church will be filled with beautiful flowers, the Paschal Candle will herald Christ's Resurrection from the dead, and the liturgical colour will be a festive white.

Holy Cross Orthodox Church is a faithful and friendly church, and everyone is always welcome! We are located at 7545 Main Street, in the Ralston Suburb of Omaha, Nebraska. For more information visit our parish website at: www.holycrossomaha.net or call (402) 573-6558. I am looking forward to seeing you on the Feast of Feasts. 

The ancient Christian Paschal greeting, still used among Orthodox Christians, is "Christ is Risen!," with the response, "He is Risen Indeed!" 

English:  Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! 

Hebrew: Ha Masheeha houh quam!  Be emet quam!

Gaelic:  Taw creest ereen! Taw shay ereen guhdyne!

Anglo-Saxon:  Crist aras! Crist sodhlice aras!

Welsh: Atgyfododd Crist! Atgyfododd yn wir! 

Greek:  Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!

Latin:  Christus resurrexit! Vere resurrexit!

Russian:  Khristos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese! 

Coptic:  Pchristos aftooun! Alethos aftooun!

Ethiopian:  Christos t'ensah em' muhtan! Exai' ab-her eokala!

"Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing Life!"

Christ is Risen - Our Joy!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

THE MIRACLE OF THE HOLY FIRE

Have you heard of the Miracle of the Holy Fire? It is an awesome, miraculous act of God that has taken place at the same time, in the same manner, in the same place, every single year since the first century. It takes place in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the holiest place on earth, where our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ was buried and rose from the dead. The miracle happens every year on Orthodox Easter, the day of Christ’s Resurrection that was anciently observed by all Christians, and remains the day observed by Orthodox Christians today.

Christianity is not a subjective religion. It is not about “sincerely held beliefs.” It is about facts.  We do not merely “believe,” we know! The Apostle Peter writes, “For we do 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” (II Pet. 1:16).

Our Lord did not just leave a book for us to read and try to figure out, He established a Church and promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against it. In other words, He promised that the Church He built would exist until He returns, and that it would remain Orthodox (correct) in Faith throughout time. Jesus is the head of the Church, the Church is His Body, and the Holy Spirit dwells in it, leading it into all truth. The Church is a miracle of God. It is a Divine Institution and a living organism. It has no earthly head, but no one has ever been able to destroy it from without: not the pagan Romans, not the God-hating communists, and not militant Islam; and no heresy has ever been able to destroy it from within or splinter it. Sure, Christians and clergy can fall away into heresy and schism like Arius did, but the Orthodox Catholic Church always remains visibly one and united in Faith and Order under its only head: Jesus Christ. It is “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15). The Orthodox Christian Faith, by its very nature, cannot change (Jude 3) and has not changed over the centuries. It is forever the same. The Orthodox Church is not a denomination, it is the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church established by Christ, and we have Christ’s own promise that the gates of hell will never prevail against it.

At the time of the Great Schism in AD 1054, the English Church, ecclesia anglicana, remained a faithful local Orthodox Church. This led to the Norman Invasion and conquest in 1066. Orthodox England was conquered, all but one of the native British bishops were uncanonically replaced by Normans, and the Church was forced to submit to Rome by force of arms. In 1534, the English Reformation began with the goal of restoring the Faith and Order of the “Undivided” Church. That mission was advanced by the Caroline Divines of the 17th century and the Oxford Movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. Anglicanism could take us to the door of the Church, but we had to walk through that door. After almost a thousand years of separation, traditional Anglicans are being restored to visible unity with the Orthodox Catholic Church from which our fathers were torn away against their will by the Norman Conquest. In recent years Anglicans made up the second largest group of converts to the Orthodox Church. Today they may well be the largest group. The Western Church is being rebuilt before our eyes, and we have a part in it. There are now Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in North America, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and on the continent of Europe, and our numbers are growing. This is a miracle of God for those who have eyes to see it. 

God is not distant from us. He is with us, and in us, and is at work all around us. He loves us. Life is filled with the miraculous, if only we have the eyes to see it. Sadly, no one is as blind as he who will not see. The Miracle of the Holy Fire is an objective miracle that, as I have said, has taken place at the same time every year since the first century, in the holiest place on earth, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The Miracle of the Holy Fire is an objective sign of Christ’s loving presence with His Church in this world.

Bishop George of Mayfield who visited our parish last May has sent me a wonderful article about this ancient and on-going miracle. The article includes amazing video. I am forwarding it on to you. Please read the article and view the video. I promise you that It will bless and encourage you. Feel free to share it with others. Here is the Link:

http://stpeterorthodoxchurch.com/the-miracle-of-the-holy-fire-2/

We were created to know, love and serve God in this life and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. God calls us into union with Himself. Union with God is the goal of the Christian life. We are not called merely to be servants of God, as wonderful as that would be, but to be His sons and daughters — to become by grace what our Lord Jesus Christ is by nature. This is what theologians call theosis. Union with God is a very personal relationship. Building and maintaining any relationship takes time, effort and sacrifice. Each of us needs to ask ourselves how much time, effort and personal sacrifice am I putting into building and maintaining my relationship with God through Christ? Building a close personal relationship with someone means saying things like, I love you, I want to spend time with you, I want to talk with you and walk with you, I am sorry that I hurt or offended you, and I want to be with you forever. But we must do more than say these things in words, we must say them with our very lives. 

We are now in Holy Week. Have you made a spiritually profitable use of Lent? The Prophet Isaiah writes, “Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And he will have mercy on him; And to our God, For he will abundantly pardon” (Is. 55:6-7).

Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 8th, is Spy Wednesday on the Western Orthodox Kalendar. Judas professed to be a disciple of Christ and was even in fellowship with the disciples, but he was not among the faithful. While professing to be a follower of Christ, he betrayed Him by his actions. Later, the Apostle Peter would deny even knowing Jesus out of fear. The difference is that Judas despaired in the end and was lost, while St. Peter repented and was restored, never to doubt or deny Christ again. The way of repentance is the way of restoration, healing, union with God, and life. Lent is a season of repentance and a time for growing in union with God. 

If you have made a spiritually profitable use of Lent, don’t stop now — press on. If you have not made a very profitable use of Lent, there is still time. Holy Week is the holiest week of the year. You can still heed the call to repentance and to serious discipleship. Let us all  accompany Christ in His passion during Holy Week that we might rejoice in His Victory over death and hell on Holy Pascha.

Confessions will be heard on Spy Wednesday, April 8th, from 11:15 to 11:45 AM, and by appointment; and the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated at 12:10 PM.

Maundy Thursday, April 9th, is a very, very important day for us. It is on this day that we celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist by our Blessed Lord on the night in which He was betrayed. Services are at 6:30 PM. Come, and mystically gather together with the apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, and take part in the institution of the Holy Eucharist and receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion as if from our Lord’s own hands. Then, leave the Upper Room and cross over into the Garden of Gethsemane with our Lord and the apostles and obey His call to watch and pray by praying Vespers. Finally, be there when Judas and the soldiers appear and take Him away as represented in the Stripping of the Altar and the removal of the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle. 

On Good Friday, April 10th, Matins and the Liturgy of the Word (Ante-Communion) will be prayed at 10:00 AM at a bare altar with an empty tabernacle, without the sanctuary light, candles or burning lampadas. Come and accompany Jesus during His mockery of a trial before Pilate. Hear the same crowd who cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David” on Palm Sunday now cry out “Crucify Him,” and remember just how easy it is to worship God with our lips while our hearts can be far from Him. Accompany our Lord along the way of sorrows and up Mount Calvary. As Christ was determined to lay down His life for us, let us be determined to live for Him.

Good Friday evening we will gather back in the church at 6:30 PM for Vespers as our Lord is buried in a borrowed tomb. Christ died for us while we were, and are, yet sinners. It is a sad day, but we know that the story does not end there. It is Good Friday, but we know that Easter Sunday is coming! More about Easter Even and Holy Pascha (Easter) later...

Please follow the link and read the article about the Miracle of the Holy Fire, watch the Video, and do all you can to arrange your schedule to attend as many Holy Week Services as possible. They are all different. Holy Week is the week that changed the world forever, and this week can be a week that changes your life. Be sure to invite family and friends to join you in accompanying our Lord Jesus Christ through this holiest of weeks, culminating in His glorious Resurrection on Holy Pascha. On Easter Sunday, April 12th, we will celebrate a Solemn Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you there. Jesus Christ is the Truth Revealed. Orthodox Christianity is the Truth Lived. Let’s live it!

Friday, March 6, 2015

RECOMMENDED LENTEN READING

It has long been the practice of serious Christians to include reading with the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Rather than recommending a single book to be read, I am recommending five books. I hope that you will choose at least one of these books to read during Lent. Here are my recommendations for your Lenten reading: 

God and You: Person to Person, by Fr. Anthony M. Coniaris, published by Light and Life Publishing. This important book by the popular Orthodox writer Fr. Anthony Coniaris is a guide to “Developing a Daily Personal relationship with Jesus.” The goal of this book is to bring readers into a deeper personal relationship with Jesus Christ on a “person to person” basis. Fr. Stanley S. Harakas of Holy Cross Seminary says, “My advice — put it at the top of your reading list.” I agree!

The Christian Old Testament - Looking at the Hebrew Scriptures through Christian Eyes, by Fr. Lawrence R. Farley, published by Ancient Faith Publishing (Conciliar Press).  “Many Christians see the Old Testament as ‘the other Testament’: a source of exciting stories to tell the kids, but not very relevant to the Christian life. The Christian Old Testament reveals the Hebrew Scriptures as the essential context of Christianity, as well as a many-layered revelation of Christ Himself. Follow along as Fr. Lawrence Farley explores the Christian significance of every book of the Old Testament” (From the back cover).

Popular Orthodox Christian writer and speaker Presbytera Frederica Mathewes-Green writes regarding The Christian Old Testament, by Fr. Lawrence Farley: “Does the story of Christ begin in the manager? Or when Gabriel announced to the Theotokos that she would bear a son? No, God began telling the story of Christ to the Jewish people thousands of years earlier, in the beauty and mystery of the book we call the Old Testament. Christians will find their faith enriched in unexpected ways by this insightful book.” This book will forever change the way you look at the Old Testament Scriptures, and will enrich your Bible reading, study and Lectio Divina (a Latin term, meaning "divine reading.” Lectio Divina describes a way of reading the Holy Scriptures whereby we gradually let go of our own agenda and open ourselves to what God wants to say to us). 


The Way of a Pilgrim and the Pilgrim Continues His Way, various publishers. This book is a spiritual classic. Follow this anonymous nineteenth century Russian pilgrim as he takes you across the vast land of Holy Russia in search of an answer to one compelling question: How does one pray without ceasing? Finally, share in his deep joy when his search turns up an ancient treasure: the Jesus Prayer, handed down by untold generations of Orthodox Christians. The ancient words from the Christian past become alive in his joyful heart. As they came alive for him, they can come alive for us also. This is a book that changes lives, and it can change yours!

The Orthodox Way, Revised Edition, by Bishop Kallistos Ware, published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. This book is an introduction to the doctrine, worship and life of Orthodox Christianity. It covers many of the fundamental issues of theology: God as hidden yet revealed; the problem of evil; the nature of salvation; the meaning of faith; prayer; and death and what lies beyond. Doctrinal issues are not presented as dry, abstract propositions for theological debate, but as affecting the whole of the Christian  life. A powerful, enlightening and uplifting book.

Unseen Warfare, as edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and revised by Theophan the Recluse, published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. “This spiritual classic was written by Lorenzo Scupoli, a sixteenth century Venetian priest. Immensely popular in its own day, it was ranked by Francis de Sales with the Imitation of Christ. In the general rapport between Western and Eastern Christendom, it reached [St.] Nicodemus of Mount Athos and later, in the nineteenth century, [St.] Theophan the recluse, both of whom edited and translated the work. Rich in its references to the teachings of the Saints and Fathers, Unseen Warfare combines the insights of West and East... “ (From the back cover).  This book is a must read! 

Contact Information:

Light and Life Publishing: 1-952-925-3888; www.light-n-life.com

Ancient Faith Publishing (Conciliar Press): 1-800-967-7377; www.store.ancientfaith.com

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: 1-800-204-BOOK (2665); www.svspress.com

Jesus Christ is the Truth Revealed.
Orthodox Christianity is the Truth Lived.
Let's Live It!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

SHROVETIDE

This year Ash Wednesday falls on February 25th, and with it Lent begins. The three days before Ash Wednesday are known in the English tradition as Shrovetide.  Sunday, February 22nd, is Quinquagesima Sunday, also known as Shrove Sunday, the next day is Shrove Monday, also known as Collop Monday, and Tuesday, February 24th, is Shrove Tuesday.

Shrovetide is the English equivalent for “Carnival” used in much of Southwestern Europe. However, the word Carnival did not anciently mean what the word suggests to modern ears. The word Carnival comes from the Latin carne levare, meaning the  “taking away of flesh” which marked the beginning of Lent. The English name of Shrovetide is much clearer in meaning than Carnival.

The word “shrove” is the past tense of the English verb “shrive,” which means to confess one’s sins and to receive absolution from a priest. Shrovetide gets its name from the shriving or making use of the sacrament of Confession that English Christians were expected to do before Lent begins. In the ancient Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Institutes translated by Abbot Aelfric about AD 1000, it 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.”

To encourage people to make their confessions before the beginning of Lent, special plays or masques were performed throughout England which portrayed the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ or the Last judgement. These masques were especially common on the night of Shrove Tuesday. Shrovetide prepared English Christians for a serious and spiritually profitable Lent. Lent would then become an opportunity for repentance and  a greater commitment to discipleship, bearing fruit in spiritual renewal and revival.

Shrove Monday is also known as Collop Monday. Collops refer to the remnants of meat. The collops referred to here are the remnants of cured meats such as bacon that were not expected to remain edible once Lent was over and the eating of meat allowed again. A traditional Collop Monday supper in ancient England would include thick slices of bacon along with eggs, and the fat from the bacon would be saved for Shrove Tuesday to be use in the frying of pancakes.

Shrove Tuesday is also commonly known as Pancake Day. The English custom of eating pancakes was undoubtedly suggested by the need to use up the eggs and fats that would be given up during Lent. It is from Shrove Tuesday that Pancake races and the practice of flipping pancakes derives. It is a quaint custom to flip each pancake three times on Shrove Tuesday in honour of the Blessed Trinity. 

Lenten fasting practices differed somewhat is various parts of the Church. The ancient practice in Canterbury is found in a letter of St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) to St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury: “We abstain from flesh, meat and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, and eggs.” These were the ancient fasting rules governing the Church in Canterbury: hence Collop Monday and pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. For the same reason, Easter is celebrated with decorated eggs, fresh breads and delicious meats. The elderly, children and the infirm should not attempt such strict fasting.

This coming Sunday, February 22nd, is Quinquagesima, the beginning of Shrovetide. Christian Education is at 9:00 AM, followed by Matins (Morning Prayer) at 9:30 AM, with the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. Our monthly potluck luncheon will follow the Liturgy. During the luncheon we will be showing a thirty minute, up-to-date and inspiring documentary on the Holy Mountain of Mount Athos.  You will not want to miss this film!

Confessions will be heard on Shrove Tuesday from 11:45 AM to 12:45 PM, on Ash Wednesday from 11:45 AM to 12:45 PM, and by appointment. There is no better way to begin Lent than by being shriven (confessed and absolved). Confession is good for the soul.

Our parish Sisterhood is hosting a Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper on Tuesday evening, February 24th, at 6:30 PM. This is not a parish fundraiser. There is no charge for the supper, but a free-will offering will be taken to cover expenses. Please be sure to invite family and friends to this traditional and fun event.

Ash Wednesday Services are Wednesday evening, February 25th, at 6:30 PM, and include the sung Litany followed by the celebration of the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist with the Imposition of Ashes. Please plan to attend this important Service as Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the holy season of Lent.

Lenten fasting teaches detachment, and self-denial teaches self control. The food money saved during Lent should be used to benefit the poor, not ourselves. Everyone is encouraged to use the savings to buy more food for our parish food bins so we can provide even more help for those most in need.

Lent is not just about fasting and self-denial. Far from it. It is also a good time to reflect on our spiritual life and to make changes. Am I praying every day? Am I reading the Holy Scriptures and spiritually profitable books? Lent is a wonderful time to begin spending more time in prayer and reading more. Am I faithful in my Sunday church attendance? This is fundamental. If I am not faithful in my Sunday church attendance there is no better time to make a commitment to become faithful than Lent. With a little extra effort could I make it to the Eucharistic Liturgy on a Wednesday or Thursday in addition to Sunday? Receiving Holy Communion in the midst of the week will change your week. Making it a habit will change your life. Am I partaking in entertainment or engaging in behavior that is sinful or near occasions of sin? Am I resisting sin and genuinely striving to live a holy life, or am I explaining away and excusing my sins rather than repenting of them? Am I a serious and practicing Christian or is my spiritual life more talk than walk? Am I double minded? Am I living a double life? Have I stopped or nearly stopped attending church and receiving the sacraments? Do I worship God with my lips while my heart is far from Him?  Lent is a time for deeper commitment, and for new beginnings. You can begin again. You can come home again...

The spiritual life is like anything else, you will get out of it what you put into it. No pain, no gain. No cross, no crown. Lent is a wonderful time to invest in your spiritual life. May Almighty God bless you with a holy and spiritually profitable Lent, and with a blessed and joyous Easter!