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.

Monday, October 17, 2016

PATRIARCH KIRILL’S VISIT TO THE UNITED KINGDOM

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill is in the midst of a patriarchal visit to the United Kingdom. Sunday morning an estimated 1,000 people gathered in London’s Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God and All Saints to attend an historic Liturgy celebrated by the Patriarch.

The Service included the consecration of London’s largest Orthodox Christian Cathedral, which had undergone a major refurbishment, and the Divine Liturgy (Holy Mass), commemorating the 300th anniversary of the presence of the Russian Orthodox Church in the British Isles. During the Liturgy Patriarch Kirill commemorated “all the Saints who shone forth in the British land.”

Patriarch Kirill also commemorated the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) with the Moscow Patriarchate. The two reunited in 2007, after 80 years of canonical separation following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the subsequent communist persecution of the Church in Russia.

The Western Rite with its English and Celtic cultural, liturgical and spiritual patrimony which was lost to the Orthodox Church in 1066, due to the Norman Conquest, has been restored by the Russian Orthodox Church. The Western Rite of the Orthodox Church is thriving and growing. 

I am attaching for you a link to an informative article about Patriarch Kirill’s visit to the UK with some great photographs. There is also excellent video that I encourage you to see. Here is the link:


After a generation of doctrinal and moral confusion and declining influence of Christianity in the West it is such a blessing for us to be part of a worldwide Christian revival. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, and Russia alone saw the shedding of the blood of some 20 million Orthodox Christian martyrs under atheistic communism. With the fall of Soviet communism a new Pentecost began in Russia that is spreading around the world and we are part of it.

Here is a link to a great article on the Orthodox resurgence in Russia:


Let us give thanks for the New Springtime that has begun in Russia and Eastern Europe and pray for the conversion of America and Western Europe. Everyone is invited to participate in this move of the Holy Spirit and to have a part in this New Springtime. The Orthodox Church welcomes everyone. We have a place for you. Some and see!

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, September 29, 2016

LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT HOLY CROSS PARISH

Some of our readers have never visited Holy Cross parish while others haven’t worshipped with us for some time, so I would like to tell you a little about us. 

Holy Cross is a Western Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). What does that mean? It means that we are a fully canonical parish of the Moscow Patriarchate, in full sacramental communion and visible unity with the 300 million member Orthodox Church, while preserving our English and Celtic cultural, liturgical and spiritual heritage and patrimony.

The Gospel was brought to the British Isles in AD 37, by St. Joseph of Arimathea, the man who buried Christ in his own tomb after the crucifixion. At the time of the Great Schism in 1054, the Church in the British Isles remained Orthodox, leading to the Norman Invasion and Conquest in 1066. 

The Norman Invasion was promoted as a crusade to bring an "erring" (i.e. Orthodox) English Church under the authority of Rome. The Normans conquered England, killed the English King in battle, and imprisoned and replaced all but one of the English bishops with Normans. Members of the English Royal Family fled to Russia where they married into the Russian Royal Family.

The English Reformation which began in 1534, was very different from the Protestant Reformation on the Continent that began in 1517. The English Reformation was conducted by the English bishops themselves. No new Church was created, but the old one was reformed with the goal of restoring the Faith of what is commonly called the undivided Church. That goal was advanced by the Caroline Divines of the 17th century, the Oxford Movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the great St. Louis Church Congress and the Continuing Anglican Movement of the latter 20th and early 21st centuries, bringing many Anglicans to the very door of the Orthodox Church where they have received a warm welcome. Today Anglicans make up the largest single group of converts to the Orthodox Church, and hundreds of former Anglicans are now serving as Orthodox priests in America alone.

OUR WORSHIP

In the Orthodox Church the Roman Rite, commonly called the Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great has been restored; as has the English Usage of the Roman Rite, commonly called the Liturgy of St. Tikhon, named in honour of the Russian bishop who made its restoration possible. At Holy Cross parish we use the English Use, or Liturgy of St. Tikhon, which has long been described by English and Celtic Christians as “our incomparable liturgy.”

On Sunday morning we have sung Matins (Morning Prayer) at 9:15 AM, with the Psalms and Canticles sung according to the ancient Gregorian and Sarum chant tones, along with the ancient Office Hymn. The Divine Office is sung by the congregation, led by our Cantor and Schola Cantorum (Vested Choir), and it is a very beautiful and prayerful Service.

The Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, also known as Holy Mass or the Divine Liturgy follows at 10:00 AM. At the Eucharistic Liturgy the great hymns of the Church are sung, the Propers (Introit, Gradual and Alleluia, Offertory Verse and Communion Verse) are chanted according to the ancient Gregorian chant tones, with Merbecke used for the Ordinary (Kyries, Gloria in excelsis, Sanctus and Benedictus, etc.). Real sermons are preached, exegeting the Holy Scriptures and applying them to everyday life. The Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist is celebrated ad orientem (with the priest facing the altar) and wearing the ancient Western vestments. It is a very beautiful and uplifting Liturgy that carries us to the very Throne of Grace.

PARISH LIFE

Fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall follows the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, with a potluck luncheon on the last Sunday of the month. Community life is very important at Holy Cross parish and parishioners love being together. Holy Cross is a faithful and friendly parish and everyone is wanted and welcomed. Like the old hit television series Cheers, it is a place where everyone knows your name and everyone is glad that you came. After a few weeks new people feel like they have known everyone for years.

At Holy Cross we are a parish of converts and we are committed to reaching out to everyone with the treasures that we have found in the ancient Orthodox Church. Our Mission is  to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him, and the fullness of the Apostolic Faith to those who do. 

We want everyone to come to Christ, embrace the fullness of the Apostolic Faith, be united in the One Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself, and to have life now and that more abundantly, with eternal life with our Lord in his Kingdom. In 2015, we received four new communicant members into our parish: three from Anglicanism and one from Lutheranism. So far in 2016, we have received six new communicant members into our parish: one from Anglicanism, one from Evangelicalism, and four from Traditional Roman Catholicism. In addition, we currently have seven Catechumens who are preparing to be received as communicants: three adults who had been unchurched and are preparing for baptism, and four former Traditional Roman Catholics. We also have a steady stream of visitors and inquirers.

At Holy Cross parish we have a family that makes a six hour round trip to church twice a month. We also have one that makes nearly a four our round trip to church every week. We have two families who make a three hour round trip, and two who drive a ninety minute round trip to church. Why do they drive so far? Because they have found a church worth the drive! We also have members who live close enough to walk or who are only minutes from church by car. We have members in both Nebraska and Iowa, and who live in Omaha, the surrounding communities, and in rural areas. Our oldest member is in his 70s and our youngest is four months old. We are white and black, blue collar, white collar, elementary, high school and college students, self employed and retired. On Sunday you will find the congregation about half male and half female.

We actively support four area homeless shelters in Omaha, and have done so for years. Every year we provide large amounts of food to the Open Door Mission and Lydia House Shelters, with every ounce donated from within our parish. In addition, we make deliveries of donated gourmet bread to the Francis and Sina House Shelters every Friday and one Saturday of the month. In the last year alone we have delivered more than 15,000 packages of donated gourmet bread. We have also raised money to dig clean water wells in Africa and to support the work of Voice of the Martyrs. 

At Holy Cross parish we also enjoy special activities together. Every year we have a Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, occasional Dinner and a Movie Nights in our parish hall, an annual outing to Werner Park on Faith and Family Night to see our local Triple A baseball club the Omaha, Storm Chasers play, an annual Summer Church Picnic and a Fall Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck at Santa’s Woods. 

Our annual Summer Church Picnic was held at the Pavilion at Halleck Park in Papillion last Sunday after the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. We grilled hotdogs and hamburgers, which everyone enjoyed, along with other main dishes and a wide variety of delicious side dishes and deserts. Everyone had a wonderful time. 

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

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

This is not a parish fundraiser and the church will only be charging what Santa’s Woods charges the church. Ages thirteen and up are $9.00, five through twelve are $6.00, with children under five free. Our annual Fall Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck is always a highlight of our parish life and everyone always has a wonderful time, so mark your calendar and begin telling your family and friends about it. Everyone is invited!

AN INVITATION

The Orthodox Church is not a denomination. The Orthodox Church has an unbroken history dating back to Jesus Christ Himself. The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity and it is still the heartland of Orthodox Christianity. The Church in Jerusalem where it all began has always been and remains an Orthodox Church, as is the Church of Antioch, Syria where the disciples were first called Christians. The Orthodox Church is also known as the Eastern Orthodox Church because Christianity originated in the East, not in Rome, Augsburg, Geneva or Canterbury, much less in America; but the Orthodox Church is both Eastern and Western in culture and worship, and is made up of people from every race, ethnicity, nation and language on earth. The Orthodox Church is Catholic, Universal, and everyone is always welcome. We have never had a Reformation or a Counter Reformation, but have preserved in its fullness "the faith which was once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The Orthodox Church does not change in Faith and Morals. She is an unchanging Church with an unchanging Message to an ever changing world. 

Now that I have told you a little about Holy Cross parish I hope that you will “Come and See.” Everyone is always welcome at Holy Cross parish. Sunday Matins is at 9:15 AM, followed by the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM, with fellowship and refreshments after the Liturgy. For more information you can call the church office at (402) 573-6558 or email me at venovak@hughes.net. We are a faithful, friendly and vibrant parish, and we have a place for you. I hope to see you on Sunday!

Friday, September 23, 2016

HOLY CROSS UPDATE

Dear friends in Christ,

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

SUMMER CHURCH PICNIC - Sunday, September 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A NEW SPRINGTIME

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

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

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


PARISH FACEBOOK PAGE

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

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

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


IMPORTANT REMINDER

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

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

Wishing you every grace and blessing,

Father+

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