This Sunday is Passion Sunday and the beginning of Passion-tide. Pascha, Easter, is just two weeks from Sunday. I hope that you have had a focused, holy and fruitful Lent so far. If not, there are still two weeks left in Lent so let us make a spiritually profitable use of the time we have left. Even if we have had a holy and profitable Lent so far, we can still intensify our observance for the last two weeks of this important season. Remember, no pain no gain, no cross no crown.
Lenten observance is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. We don't pray, receive the sacraments, fast and practice self-denial in order to gain merit with God. We do all these things, and more, as means to grow in holiness. Growing in holiness is to be able to surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit more and more, day by day, so He can change us into the likeness of Jesus. As the Saints of every age have already discovered, marvelous things happen when we let go of our own need to control and begin to live more and more with the wonder and trust found in a child. Being a Saint (Latin for holy) is a vocation to which each and every Christian has been called, not just a few greats who lived in the past and who are now commemorated on the Church Kalendar. Becoming a Saint means repenting of and forsaking our sins, centering our lives more and more in God's life, acquiring the Holy Spirit and surrendering ourselves more and more to His leading, and using more and more of what we have in personal talents and spiritual gifts, and time and treasure, not for our own self-aggrandizement, comfort or pleasure, but for the glory of God and the service of His people. To be a Saint is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, partake of the Divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), and become like Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Fr. Anthony Coniaris says, if "it's not personal, it's not real."
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, April 13th. The Holy Week Schedule is:
Palm Sunday, April 13th, Morning Prayer, 9:30 AM; Holy Eucharist, 10:00 AM
Spy Wednesday, April 16th, Holy Eucharist , 12:10 PM
Maundy Thursday, April 17th, Holy Eucharist, Stripping of the Altar and Evening Prayer, 6:30 PM
Good Friday, April 18th, Morning Prayer and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, 9:00 AM
Evening Prayer and Litany, 6:30 PM
Easter Even, April 19th, Evening Prayer and Renewal of Baptismal Vows, 6:30 PM
Easter or Pascha, April 20th, Morning Prayer, 9:30 AM; Holy Eucharist, 10:00 AM
I hope that you will arrange your schedule for Holy Week so you can attend as many of these important Services as you can, and every Service if possible. We will be walking with Christ and reliving the events in the days leading to His Passion, Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection.
Let us remember the poor and take the money that we are saving by fasting and buy food for those most in need. Our donation of food was taken to the Open Door Mission today and totaled 300 pounds! So far this year we have contributed more than 1,700 pounds of food to the Open Door Mission and we are outpacing last year's giving — for which I am truly thankful. And that does not include our deliveries of large amounts of gourmet bread to the Francis and Sienna House shelters every Friday and one Saturday of every month. The needs are so great and they are growing, and I am thankful that we are able to help feed so many. The parish food bin is now empty, so please bring a donation with you on Sunday. There are so many hungry people to feed. Let's do all we can for as many as we can following the example of our Lord. Thank you!
Thank you to everyone who helped clean the church last Wednesday evening for Holy Week and Pascha. We had a good turnout and we were finished in about an hour.
Please remember in your prayers those who were killed or wounded at Fort Hood this week, and their families. The last count that I heard was three dead, plus the shooter who took his own life, and sixteen wounded.
There will be no Services at Douglas County Hospital tomorrow (Saturday). The hospital is under quarantine. Volunteers are not being allowed in and residents are not being allowed to gather in groups. I have no further details. Please remember the patients and staff of Douglas County Hospital in your prayers.
You may have noticed that our street signs are down. That is because the City of Ralston is requiring that all street signs come down. There is good news though. Our landlord is allowing us to put up a new sign on the overhang of the covered parking lot. A large 3x8 foot sign is already being made and will soon go up, greatly increasing the visibility of our church from the street. A new sign is also being made to replace the sign on the pillar in the parking lot. This new sign will be placed higher on the pillar to increase visibility as well. These new signs will have a Celtic Cross like you see on our bulletin cover, in emerald green, with black text on a white background.
A family in the parish has purchased and donated audio and video recording equipment, and we are awaiting delivery. This new equipment will allow us to increase our electronic outreach, enabling us to record events, lectures, sermons and more, and then upload them onto Youtube. I am very, very excited about this new outreach!
Our altar will soon be raised to make it more visible during worship. Altars have always been required to be no less than 39 inches and no more than 42 inches high, yet our altar measures a mere 30 inches high. The altar should be the most visible part of the church, drawing all eyes to it. I am thankful that we have a skilled woodworker in the parish who will be raising up our altar by nine inches so it will be the traditional 39 inches in height and the most visible part of the church. I am told that the added wood and stain will match the altar as it now is. I am really excited about this.
Next week Confessions will be heard on Wednesday from 11:15 to 11:45 AM.
The Holy Eucharist will be celebrated on Wednesday at 12:10 PM and on Thursday at 7:00 AM.
Choir Practice will be held on Wednesday evening at 6:15 PM.
This Sunday, April 6th, is Passion Sunday and the beginning of Passion-tide. I hope that you will invite family and friends to come to church with you, and even pick them up and bring them with you if you can.
Sunday School is at 9:00 AM, followed by Morning Prayer at 9:30 AM and the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. Nursery care for children under the age of four is available during our 10:00 AM Liturgy. Refreshments and fellowship follow worship. In an age of watered-down doctrine and worldly morality, we remain an Orthodox Christian church with an unchanging message in an ever changing world. On Christ the solid Rock we stand, all else is naught but shifting sand. We are a faithful, friendly and active congregation, and we have a place for you. See you on Sunday!