Tuesday, July 21, 2015

THE HOLY EUCHARIST - Christ's Great Gift to His Church

O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8)


The word Eucharist comes from the Greek and means Thanksgiving. The Lord’s Supper is called the Holy Eucharist because when Christ instituted it He gave thanks, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me’" (1 Cor. 11:23-25). 


The Holy Eucharist is the principal act of Christian worship as it is the one Service instituted by Christ Himself. Other religions have prayer, readings, hymns and sermons, but only Christians celebrate the Eucharist. 

Following the example of the Apostles and early Christians, the Church has assembled on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) week by week for nearly 2,000 years to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread [the Eucharist], and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). 


In the Sacrament of Holy Communion the Body and Blood of Christ are received. At the Last Supper the Lord Jesus Christ said, “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” He did not say, “This represents my body” or “This is a symbol of my blood.”

Jesus said, “‘I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.’ The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven--not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever’" (John 6:48-58).

Just like today, many of the disciples who heard these words would not accept them. “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’" (John 6:60). Yet Jesus did not take His words back, or explain that they were only meant to be taken “symbolically.” And just like today, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66). 

The Apostles and early Christians understood that Christ meant his words to be taken literally. The Sacrament of Holy Communion does not merely represent the Body and Blood of Christ, but actually presents the Body and Blood of Christ. The true Body and Blood of Christ is received in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. 

The Apostle Paul wrote, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (I Cor. 10:16). 

Because Christ is really present in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, St. Paul goes on to warn, “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body” (I Cor. 11:27-29).

The early Church believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and so did all Christians everywhere for some 1,500 years until the Protestant Reformation in Western Europe in the 16th century. 

St. Ignatius, an early Church Father, lived from AD 30 to 107. He was Bishop of Antioch, and was martyred for his faith. He was a disciple of the Apostle John. While awaiting martyrdom he wrote a number of epistles (letters) to various churches. To the Church in Ephesus he wrote, “obey the bishop and presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but that we should live forever in Jesus Christ” (Epistle to the Ephesians, c. AD 105).

In his Epistle to the Romans, (c. AD 105), St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote, “I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.”

St. Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) wrote, “And this food is called among us the Eucharist... For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh” (First Apology).

St. Cyril was an early Bishop of Jerusalem, the Mother Church of Christendom. Around the year AD 350 he delivered introductory lectures to his classes of catechumens. Regarding the Eucharist he said, “The bread and wine of the Eucharist, before the invocation of the holy and adorable Trinity, were simple bread and wine; but, after the invocation, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine becomes the blood of Christ” (Mystagogical Lecture 1.7).

St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) said, “I am mindful of my promise. For I promised you, who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the Sacrament of the Lord’s Table, which you now look upon and of which you last night were made participants. You ought to know what you have received, what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word God, is the Blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend his Body and Blood, which He poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins” (Sermons).


In his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans (c. AD 105), St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of the Apostle John, wrote, “See that ye follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery [the priests] as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [celebrated] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he entrusted it [a priest].”

The Orthodox Church is the historic Church which Christ Himself established. We have a verifiable and unbroken history going back nearly 2,000 years, and our bishops, priests and deacons are in  historic succession to the Apostles. Our Faith does not change. We still believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion and our bishops and priests still celebrate the Holy Eucharist every Lord’s Day.  We are an unchanging Church with an unchanging Message for an ever changing world. Insist on the original and do not settle for substitutes.

At Holy Cross Orthodox Church we celebrate the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist every Sunday at 10:00 AM. Come and see. The Orthodox Church welcomes you!

7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558

Monday, June 29, 2015


Dear friends in Christ,

Our parish website has been updated! Please look it over, and then send it on to family and friends. The website address is: www.holycrossomaha.net . A big thank you to our Web-mistress for her good work.

The website is a great outreach and educational tool. Do be sure to visit the Photo Gallery and click Worship at Holy Cross Orthodox Church. Many new photographs have been added to the slideshow. The slideshow will give viewers a feel for what Western Rite worship is like at Holy Cross Orthodox Church. We are a Eucharistic community and the Holy Eucharist is the center and summit of our spiritual life!

The News page has been updated, as has the Calendar page. More helpful information has been added on the About Us page, and a new Welcome letter from me is now on the Home page. On the Sidebar you will find a new article titled, The Good News of Jesus Christ. It is listed second from the top of the Sidebar, just below A Kalendar of the Christian Year, 2015.

Our mission at Holy Cross Orthodox Church 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. For those who do not know Christ, or know about Him but do not know Him, I recommend sharing two articles on the Sidebar: The Good News of Jesus Christ; and Do You Have a Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ? The goal of the Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit and union with God through Jesus Christ our Lord - and that is a very personal relationship indeed! For those who are already following Christ in non-Orthodox churches, I recommend sharing two other articles on the Sidebar: Introducing the New Testament Church; and Letter to an Inquirer.

We are a faithful and friendly church, and we have a place for you!


Fr. Victor+

Fr. Victor Novak
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Holy Cross Orthodox Church, 7545 Main Street in Ralston, Nebraska will celebrate its second anniversary as an Orthodox parish on Sunday, June 28th. Holy Cross was received into the Orthodox Church from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in June of 2013, and is a Western Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

There are now more than fifty Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in the United States, with others in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and on the continent of Europe, and our numbers are growing.  There have been eleven Western Rite ordinations since December 2014, in ROCOR alone. 

Holy Cross Orthodox Church will celebrate the day with the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM, followed by a potluck luncheon in the parish hall immediately after Mass. For more information email me at venovak@hughes.net or call (402) 573-6558. The public is invited to attend.

Friday, May 29, 2015


The Western Rite Within Orthodoxy

Throughout the first millennium of Christian history the Western Rites existed within the Orthodox Church side by side with the Eastern Rites. Even after the Great Schism of AD 1054, England remained Orthodox until the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Norman Invasion was seen as a crusade to restore the English Church to Rome. After conquering England, the Normans replaced all but one of the English bishops with Normans and forced the Church into submission to Rome.

Western Rite Christians also continued in full communion with the Orthodox Church in Constantinople and other Eastern cities until they were finally absorbed into the Eastern Rite sometime in the thirteenth century. A Benedictine monastery, Amalfion, existed on Mount Athos until 1287, surviving the Great Schism of 1054, the Roman Catholic conquest of Mount Athos in 1204, and the Roman Catholic retreat from Mount Athos in 1261, closing only due to the difficulty of getting vocations from the West. 

A vast number of Orthodox Saints, including many Holy Fathers of the Church, were spiritually nurtured by the Western Rites. The Western Church produced such great spiritual luminaries as Saints Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Tours, Benedict of Nursia, Leo the Great, Gregory the Great (the Dialogist), Patrick of Ireland, Aidan, Columba, Hilda of Whitby, Bede the Venerable, Jerome, and Augustine of Hippo.

With the closing of Amalfion, the Benedictine monastery on Mount Athos in 1287, the use of the Western Rite, which had been celebrated on the Holy Mountain for more than 300 years, and in the Orthodox Church for nearly thirteen centuries, came to a temporary end.

The English Reformation

The English Reformation which began in 1534, was different from the Reformation on the continent of Europe. No new Church was formed. The Reformation in England was conducted by the bishops themselves with the goal of restoring the Faith and Order of the undivided Church. The work of reform and restoration in the English Church was continued by the Caroline Divines of the 17th century, and the Oxford Movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) wrote, “This [Anglican] appeal to antiquity has led many Anglicans to look with sympathy and interest at the Orthodox Church, and equally it has led many Orthodox to look with interest and sympathy to Anglicanism... firm bonds of Anglo-Orthodox solidarity were established by the end of the nineteenth century” (The Orthodox Church, by Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, Penguin, c. 1993, p. 318). 

Western Orthodox Rebirth

With the declaration of Papal Infallibility by the First Vatican Council in 1870, many concerned Roman Catholics began to rethink their Faith and to call themselves Old Catholics, rejecting what they considered to be a new Faith introduced by the Council. Some of these Old Catholics turned their eyes to the East, to the unchanging Orthodox Catholic Church.

In the wake of the First Vatican Council the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church authorized the use of a corrected Roman Rite by Roman Catholics who were returning to the Orthodox Church. 

In the United States, the restoration of the Western Rites began in 1891 when Bishop Vladimir (Sokolovsky), the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Alaska, formally received a parish of Swiss Old Catholics at Dykesville, near Fon du Lac, Wisconsin.

In 1898 a Western Rite Diocese of Moravia and Silesia was organized in Czechoslovakia by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 1904, Archbishop Tikhon (Belavin) and Bishop Raphael (Hawaweeny), assisted by Fr. John Kochuroff - all three of whom would later be canonized as Saints - petitioned the Holy Synod of Russia to permit the adaption of the Services of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer for use by Orthodox Christians. In 1907, a commission of the Holy Synod of Russia reported in favor of an adaption of the Book of Common Prayer for use by Western converts, and set out the criteria for adaption. The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted the report. 

A good beginning was made at restoring the Western Rite, but the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the brutal persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church made the development of this work very difficult and it progressed very slowly. Yet, despite the difficulties, Western Rite congregations and monastic communities were established in both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

In 1958, the Patriarchate of Antioch adopted the provisions of the Russian Holy Synod and authorized the restoration of the Western Rite. In 1961, the Western Rite Vicariate was erected in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, with Archpriest Alexander Turner as Vicar General.

Beginning in the 1970s, a growing number of Catholic Anglicans began to see that  due to the changes in their Church, corporate reunion between the Anglican and Orthodox Churches was becoming impossible. Many Anglicans began to enter the Orthodox Church and there are now English Use Western Rite congregations in both the Russian and the Antiochian Orthodox Churches. 

Western Rite Orthodoxy Today

Today there are Western Rite congregations and monasteries in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, with smaller works in the Romanian and Serbian Orthodox Churches. The Western Rite of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is both the largest and fastest growing, with ten Western rite ordinations in the past six months alone.

There are now more than fifty Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in the United States, with more in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, and on the continent of Europe. Various Western Rites and Usages are in use, including the Roman, the English, and the Gallican

The Western Rite has been restored to the Orthodox Catholic Church, the post-Christian West is beginning to be re-evangelized and the Western Church rebuilt. This is a move of the Holy Spirit.

St. John (Maximovich) of San Francisco said, “Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must be Eastern. The West was fully Orthodox for a thousand years...”

Come and see. The Orthodox Church welcomes you!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


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


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


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!