Tuesday, April 24, 2018

WESTERN RITE REPORT — Six Ordinations Last Week, Three New Congregations Received and a New Deanery Erected!

Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral), First Hierarch (Primate) of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and Ordinary of the Western Rite Communities ordained six candidates last week for service in the ROCOR Western Rite Communities. The men ordained are:

Fr. (Priestmonk) Serafim (Furemalm), Holy Protection — Stockholm, Sweden.

Fr. (Priestmonk) Lazarus (Wilhelmsson), Saints Halvard and Nikolaus — Gothenburg, Sweden.

Fr. Deacon Michael Petrus Catenacci, Holy Protection — Stockholm, Sweden.

Fr. Deacon Andreas Eraybar, Saints Halvard and Nikolaus — Gothenburg, Sweden.

Fr. John (Ron) Longero, St Andrew’s, Reno Nevada.

Fr. Seraphim Byrd, St Thomas’ — Mountain Home, Arkansas.

The three new parishes were received. They are:

Holy Protection of the Mother of God Orthodox Church — Stockholm, Sweden.

Saints Halvard and Nikolaus Orthodox Church — Gothenburg, Sweden.

St. Andrew’s Orthodox Church — Reno, Nevada.

More clergy and congregations in Scandinavia will be received later, with these four ordinations being just the beginning. A Scandinavian Deanery has been erected by Metropolitan Hilarion with Fr. Serafim as Dean. The Scandinavia Deanery includes Norway, Sweden and Denmark. This is historic. The events of last week have restored Western Rite Orthodoxy in Scandinavia after many centuries. 

Fr. Serafim, Dean of the Scandinavian Deanery, had served as a priest in the Church of Sweden for fifteen years. In recent years Catholic-minded clergy in Sweden and Norway left their State Churches and reorganized themselves as the Nordic Catholic Church. Fr. Serafim and other Scandinavian clergymen were re-ordained by Prime Bishop Anthony Mikowsky of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC), who travelled to Sweden for the ordinations. The Nordic Catholic Church became an affiliate of the PNCC in the Union of Scranton, and Fr. Serafim was made the bishop’s Vicar for Sweden. 

For many clergy and laity within the Nordic Catholic Church becoming Old Catholics in the PNCC was only a step on their path to Orthodoxy. Having formally embraced the Faith of the Undivided Church they soon wanted to continue their journey to fullness and enter into visible unity with the Orthodox Church. There are other Scandinavian clergy and congregations forthcoming. For logistic reasons the ordinations began with the initial four clergy, so as to lay a solid foundation in both Stockholm and Gothenburg, the two largest cities in Sweden. 

St Andrew’s Orthodox Church in Reno, Nevada and its rector, Fr. John (Ron) Longero were received into the ROCOR Western Rite Communities from the Diocese of San Joaquin, of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). An Anglican priest for more than 27 years and a graduate of Nashota House, Fr. John had been the Vocations Director for the Diocese of San Joaquin. 

With the reception of St. Andrew’s there are now two Western Rite Orthodox parishes and a Western Rite church-plant in the State of Nevada. Fr. William Bauer, a popular teacher on Western Rite Radio, is the rector of the other parish — St. Columba in Fernley, Nevada. Fr. William and I go way back as confreres. We served together under both Bishop Donald Davies, first bishop of Fort Worth, and Bishop Patrick Murphy, 1973 winner of the Keble Award from the old American Church Union. Fr. William and the parish of St. Columba were received into the Orthodox Church from the Episcopal Missionary Church (EMC), a continuing Anglican jurisdiction that had its origin as a missionary diocese of the old Episcopal Synod of America (ESA), the precursor of Forward in Faith North America (FIFNA).

Fr. Seraphim Byrd is a former Baptist pastor and missionary. Having studied himself into Orthodox Christianity he left the 1,200 family Baptist church that he was pastoring to  enter the Orthodox Church as a layman. A member of St. Thomas Orthodox Church, a Western Rite parish in Mountain Home, Arkansas, pastored by former ACNA bishop Fr. Samuel Seamans, he continued his theological education and worked his way up through minor orders and the diaconate, and was ordained to the presbyterate last week. He has been assigned to assist Fr. Samuel Seamans at St. Thomas.

On Friday, April 20, the newly ordained Fr. Serafim and Fr. Deacon Michael celebrated Holy Mass at St Joseph's Orthodox Church in Sarasota, Florida in the presence of Metropolitan Hilarion.  They served primarily in Swedish, with some English. The Vicar General, Fr. Mark Rowe writes, “It was a beautiful service, and Fr. Serafim mentioned it was a great honor as he had never served with a Metropolitan on the throne.”

Orthodox clergy who were present for the ordinations include, Vicar General Fr. Mark Rowe, Hieromonk Ezekiel and Fathers John Cook, George Fuchs, Andrew Gomez and Brendan Dougherty. Fathers Mark Rowe, John Cook, George Fuchs, Andrew Gomez and Brendan Dougherty are all former Anglican priests. Fr. Mark Rowe is a former Anglican Archdeacon, and Fr. John Cook was a priest of the Missionary Diocese of All Saints, ACNA.

This is the third series of Western Rite ordinations so far this year, and it is only April.  Among those ordained to the priesthood earlier this year are three men that I have gotten to know well:

Fr. Germain Hoernschemeyer, St. Genevieve of Paris — St. Louis, Missouri.

Fr. Thomas Janikowski, St. Athanasius — Davenport, Iowa.

Fr. Mark Grant, St. Tikhon — Richmond, Virginia.

Fr. Germain Hoernschemeyer comes to the ROCOR Western Rite Communities from the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a traditional Roman Catholic priestly society that uses the traditional Latin Mass exclusively. Fr. Thomas Janikowski is a Nashota House graduate and had been a Dean in the Diocese of Quincy, ACNA, and the director of Quad Cities Anglican Radio before his reception into the Orthodox Church. Fr. Mark Grant is also a Nashota House alumni and was a priest at the largest diocesan cathedral in the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) before being received into Orthodoxy in February.

The ROCOR Western Rite Communities are growing rapidly in numbers of clergy, congregations and faithful, both in America and Abroad. What began as a trickle is becoming a flood. In addition to the ordinations so far this year, we have also seen the development of Western Rite Radio, and are preparing for our first annual Western Rite Orthodox youth camp this summer. Western Rite Radio can be heard on-line here: https://wroradio.blogspot.com; and the St. Gabriel Youth Camp will be held from July 23 through 27 in Resaca, Georgia. More information on the Orthodox Western Rite Communities can be found here: https://www.rocor-wr.org

The Western Rite has been restored, the Western Church is being rebuilt and the post-Christian West is being re-evangelized. Whether Eastern Rite or Western Rite, we are all united in the 330 million-member Orthodox Church, are brethren, and are coworkers in the Lord’s harvest field. The Orthodox Church is the oldest Church in the world, with a continuous and unbroken history going back some 2,000 years to Jerusalem — to our Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles; and the Orthodox Church remains firmly rooted in Jerusalem and the Middle East to this day. Unchanged and unchanging in Faith and Morals after 2,000 years, the Orthodox Church continues to firmly hold the Orthodox Catholic Faith that has been believed “everywhere, always and by all” (Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins). 

With the fall of Soviet communism and the Iron Curtain, a New Springtime has begun for the Orthodox Church, a New Pentecost. As Tertullian said, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. The Work of the Great Commission is advancing world-wide and the restoration of the Western Rite and the rebuilding of the Western Church has begun. These are exciting times for Orthodox Christians. The Church is on the move and Church history is being written. 

Every Western Christian, whether Roman Catholic, Anglican or Protestant, has ancestors who were Orthodox Christians. Becoming Orthodox is nothing more than coming home to your family Church. You can come home again, and you are wanted. You will be welcomed with love and open arms. I know, because at Holy Cross parish we were. This month we celebrated our sixth Pascha (Easter) as a Western Rite Orthodox parish, and we have never been happier. We love being Orthodox and you will too. We can help. Let us hear from you!


Monday, April 16, 2018

HOLY SHROUD PRESENTATION — Sunday, April 22 at Noon

"If Christ is risen - then nothing else matters” — Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006)

Have you ever heard of the Holy Shroud, commonly called the Shroud of Turin?

This coming Sunday, April 22nd, Mr. James Bertrand, a certified Shroud Presenter will be at our church to make a detailed power point Presentation on the Holy Shroud. 

The Holy Shroud — the burial Shroud of our Lord — was taken to Antioch from Jerusalem in the first century because of the persecution in the Holy City. When the Persian army threatened Antioch, the Holy Shroud was taken by Patriarch Ephraemius of Antioch to Constantinople in AD 540, where it remained for more than six and a half centuries. In 1201, Nicholas Mesarites, the overseer of the Imperial Relic Collection, published an inventory of the relics kept in the chapel of the palace in Constantinople. The Holy Shroud was included in the inventory. 

Just days before the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, by the Crusaders who were supposed to be peacefully passing through on their way to the Holy Land, Robert de Cari, a French knight, writes in his memoirs that he had seen the Holy Shroud as it was displayed every Friday in St. Mary’s Church “so that the features of Our Lord could be plainly seen there.” With the sacking of Constantinople, the Holy Shroud was looted, taken to France and then eventually on to Turin, Italy where it remains. 

The Holy Shroud was a relic in the possession of the Orthodox Church for some twelve centuries before it was looted during the sack of Constantinople. If indeed authentic, the Shroud of Turin is a very important relic for all Orthodox Christians, and is perhaps the most important relic there is.

The Shroud of Turin is the most studied artifact in history. And as more information about the Shroud has been gathered, the wealth of scientific observations show an increasingly coherent story, which is consistent with the Gospels and authenticity. Each person can consider the information that will be presented and come to his or her own reasonable judgment regarding the Shroud.

James Bertrand has been teaching science for 37 years and has given over 130 Shroud presentations as a Certified Presenter for The American Confraternity of the Holy Shroud.  Mr. Bertrand is an affiliate of the Turin Shroud Center in Colorado Springs, headed by the world’s foremost authority on the Shroud, Dr. John Jackson. Dr. Jackson's more than four decades of research have been summarized into a publication called The Critical Summary. Mr. Bertrand will present an overview of that document with high-resolution photos as part of a 60 minute power point Presentation to be given in our parish hall on Sunday, April 22 at Noon. This Presentation is open to the public and there is no charge to attend. A free will offering will be taken. A replica of the Holy Shroud will be on display. The Critical Summary containing his presentation and much, much more will be available for purchase after the presentation.

Sunday Matins is at 9:15 AM, with the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM,  followed by the Presentation on the Holy Shroud at Noon, immediately after the Liturgy. Refreshments will be served during the Presentation. The public is invited and everyone is welcome to attend. Invite your family and friends. Join us for Worship and remain for the Presentation on the Holy Shroud, or just come for the Presentation, but come! The Presentation will be informative, edifying and may just change your life.  

We hope to see you there!

HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558

Saturday, April 7, 2018

THE HOLY FIRE HAS DESCENDED IN JERUSALEM! JOIN US FOR THE GREAT VIGIL OF PASCHA TONIGHT (Saturday, April 7) AT 11:00 PM

THE GREAT VIGIL OF PASCHA (THE EASTER VIGIL) — Tonight at 11:00 PM

The Great Vigil of Pascha (Easter), followed by the Solemn Paschal Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist will begin at 11:00 PM tonight. The Great Vigil includes the Lighting of the New Fire and the Paschal Candle, the Prophecies, the Reception of Catechumens, the Litany, and the Solemn Paschal Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. After the Liturgy there will be fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall in celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There are no Services scheduled for later on Sunday morning.

THE HOLY FIRE HAS DESCENDED IN JERUSALEM!!!

The Holy Fire has descended in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, as seen on the live stream on the Facebook page of the Jerusalem Patriarchate and on RIA-Novosti. You will want to view the video and photos on these sites.

The Holy Light descended at about 2:20 PM (7:20 AM Eastern Standard Time). The Holy Fire appeared in the edicule (the small chapel built over the burial place of Christ) just a few minutes after the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, entered there to pray and wait.

The descent of the Holy Fire was preceded by a complex ceremony: the doors of the Sepulchre were sealed with a large wax seal as a sign that its inspection had finished, and in it was found nothing that would allow the Patriarch of Jerusalem to ignite a fire by any ordinary means.

By this time the church was, as always, filled to overflowing with thousands of believers—both local Arab Orthodox and Orthodox pilgrims from all around the world. When the Patriarch of Jerusalem arrived his person was carefully searched to ensure that nothing capable of igniting a fire was brought in the Sepulcher of Christ.

The Holy Fire descends from heaven and into the Sepulchre of Christ which is located within the ancient Church of the Holy Sepluchre and ignites candles brought in by the Patriarch. Often candles held by the faithful and lampadas hanging in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre also spontaneously ignite, and sometimes the spontaneous ignitions also occur in neighboring Orthodox churches.

The Miracle of the Holy Fire has occurred in Jerusalem on the Vigil of Orthodox Pascha (Easter) since the first century. When the Roman Catholic Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and seized the Holy Places from the Orthodox, the Miracle of the Holy Fire ceased. After the Crusaders withdrew from Jerusalem and the Holy Places returned to the Orthodox Church, the annual Miracle of the Holy Fire resumed. The Miracle of the Holy Fire which occurs year after year and century after century is a yearly reminder that Christ remains with His Church as its Head.

At the ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was present a delegation of the St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation, which, closer to midnight, will deliver the fire to the patriarchal Paschal Service in the Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, Russia. Delegations from other Local Orthodox Churches, such as the Romanian, Serbian, Greek, Bulgarian, etc. also took part in the ceremony and received the Holy Fire to take back to their own Churches. Last year the Holy Fire was brought to the United States for the first time and we were privileged to receive it at Holy Cross parish.

You can find more information on the descent of the Holy Fire in 2018 here:


The Evangelical Protestant magazine, Christianity Today had a good article on the Holy Fire titled, 

IN PICTURES: STUNNING SCENES FROM ORTHODOX EASTER HOLY FIRE CEREMONIES


Here is a two hour video of today's events in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,

HOLY FIRE DESCENDS ON JERUSALEM’S CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE (VIDEO)


HOLY PASCHA — THE FEAST OF FEASTS!

Holy Pascha is the Feast of Feasts and the holiest day of the Christian Year. Everyone in warmly invited to join us at church tonight, Saturday, April 7, at 11:00 PM for the Great Vigil of Pascha. 

In the Orthodox Church the Paschal Liturgy (Easter Mass) is always celebrated at Midnight. Bring the children — Pascha is a day to make memories that will last a lifetime. Invite everyone you know to attend — family, friends, neighbors, everyone. Hearts will be touched and lives changed.

Everyone is invited to attend and visitors are always welcome. Come and share the ancient Paschal Greeting, “Christ is Risen!” With the response, “He is Risen Indeed!” Come and share the Paschal Joy! It will be a joyous and glorious night. We are a faithful, friendly, vibrant and growing parish, and we have a place for you!

We will be looking forward to seeing you at 11:00 PM tonight!

HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558

Friday, March 30, 2018

HOLY WEEK SERVICE SCHEDULE


PALM SUNDAY, April 1

9:15 AMSolemn Matins
10:00 AMBlessing of Palms and the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist                     

SPY WEDNESDAY, April 4

11:00 – 11:25 AM Confessions
11:30 AM              Matins
11:55 AM             Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified


TRIDUUM SACRUM — The Sacred Triduum

MAUNDY THURSDAY, APRIL 5

6:30 PM Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, Procession, Vespers, and the Stripping of the Altar

GOOD FRIDAY, April 6

10:00 AM Matins
Noon Stations of the Cross
6:30 PM Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified and Vespers (Burial of Christ)

GREAT VIGIL OF PASCHA (EASTER), Saturday, April 7

11:00 PM Vespers, Blessing of the New Fire and Paschal Candle, the Prophecies, Reception of Catechumens, Litany, and the Paschal Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist


HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
www.holycrossomaha.net
(402) 573-6558

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Pope: “It is an Honor to be called a Revolutionary” (La Repubblica, Mar. 29, 2018)

The Chair of New Testament Studies at the Jesuit-run College of the Holy Cross is Professor Tat-Siong Benny Liew. He was appointed Chair of New Testament Studies at Holy Cross College in 2013. Breitbart reports that Professor Liew claims that Jesus was a “drag king.” Liew says that Jesus is not only “king of Israel” and “king of the Jews,” but “also a drag king,” as presented in the New Testament Gospel of John. Saint John’s constant references to Jesus wanting water, giving water, and leaking water “speak to Jesus’ gender indeterminacy and hence his cross-dressing and other queer desires,” Liew contends. You can read all about it here:

HOLY CROSS THEOLOGY PROFESSOR SAYS JESUS WAS A “DRAG QUEEN” WITH “QUEER DESIRES"


But there is no need to worry about blasphemy and the danger of hell because Pope Francis now says there is no hell! Perhaps the pope was just misunderstood,… yet again. You can read about it from Newsweek here:

DOES HELL EXIST? POPE FRANCIS SAYS NO IN NEW INTERVIEW THAT COULD CHANGE CATHOLIC CHURCH FOREVER


The Pope said, “It is an Honor to be called a Revolutionary” (La Repubblica, Mar. 29, 2018). God forbid! We are called to “guard the Deposit" of Faith, to “earnestly contend for the faith which once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), and NOT TO BE REVOLUTIONARIES. This is very serious and cannot be ignored. The Second Vatican Council was indeed the French Revolution in the Roman Church. People can only continue in the Roman Church at great peril to their souls. Extramural Roman Catholicism such as the SSPX or Sedevacantism is not the answer as they are at best lifeboats and are not the Church. 

Genuine Catholicism can be found in the Orthodox Catholic Church, and no where else. The Orthodox Church is the oldest Church in the world, the original Church that was established by our Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, and she is still rooted in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The Orthodox Church has never experienced a Reformation, Counter-Reformation or a Vatican II-style Revolution. In the Orthodox Church it is an honor to be called faithful, not to be called a revolutionary. After some 2,000 years the Orthodox Church remains thoroughly Orthodox, and is unchanged and unchanging in Faith and Morals.  

For more information you will want to read:

AN APPEAL TO TRADITIONAL ROMAN CATHOLICS FROM AN ORTHODOX CATHOLIC PRIEST


It is time to come home to the fullness of the Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Faith. Please, share this with family and friends, and invite them to join us for Holy Mass this Sunday at 10:00 AM.  Make no mistake about it, souls are at stake. We are a faithful, friendly and vibrant parish and we have a place for everyone.

Blessings,

Father+

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

Friday, March 9, 2018

THE ORTHODOX WAY OF LIFE

“From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us strive to love God above all, and fulfill His holy will” — St. Herman of Alaska

Orthodox Christianity is much more than a system of beliefs — it is a Way of Life. Every member of the Orthodox Church should strive to be fully involved in the life and witness of the Church as an intentional disciple of Jesus Christ. In order to live the Orthodox Way of Life as a disciple of Christ, each Orthodox Christian should strive to: 

Follow the example of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in daily life, both publicly and privately, and to bear personal witness to Him.

Engage in private prayer at least mornings, evenings and at meals; and to make intercessions for the living and the dead.

Read the Holy Scriptures and spiritually edifying books regularly.

Hold the fullness of the Orthodox Christian Faith without addition or diminution, and speak to one’s pastor should questions or doubts arise.

Be a faithful member of ones parish, and attend Services there at least every Sunday and major feast day. 

Hear the Church, accept her authority in matters spiritual, and support and pray for the clergy of the Church.

Make a sacramental Confession regularly.

Receive Holy Communion frequently and with careful preparation.

Keep the fasts and feasts of the Church.

Be hard working, earning one’s own living.

Be honest and trustworthy in actions and relationships, live up to one’s personal and family responsibilities, and live chastely according to ones state in life.

Return a tithe to the parish in support of its work, and give offerings in support of the parish and the wider Church, the poor and the most vulnerable in society. 

Give personal service to the parish and to the community.

Be a good citizen and pray for the civil authorities, rendering unto caesar what is caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. 

As far as is possible, live in peace with all men.

Uphold the standard of marriage as entrusted by Christ to His Church.

Take care that children are raised with love and are brought up to know, love and serve the Lord.

Receive the last rites of the Church and Christian burial at the end of ones earthly pilgrimage. 

Leave a bequest to the parish in support of its continued work.

Do you want to live a life of serious discipleship as an intentional disciple of Jesus Christ? The Orthodox Church is the oldest Church in the world, dating back some 2,000 years to Jesus Christ and his apostles. The Orthodox Church is the original Church, the one and only Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and she is still firmly rooted in Jerusalem, the Holy Land and the East. Jesus Christ is the Truth Revealed. Orthodox Christianity is the Truth Lived. The Orthodox Way of Life is the Way of Life in Jesus Christ our Lord. We love being Orthodox. You will too. Come and see. Everyone is welcome…

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

ASH WEDNESDAY — February 21

“From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us strive to love God above all, and fulfill His holy will” — St. Herman of Alaska

Wednesday, February 21st, is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. It would be very difficult to over-emphasize the importance of Lent to our spiritual lives, so please do your best to clear your schedule and to be in church at 6:30 PM for Ash Wednesday Services. 

Confessions will be heard at mid-day on Ash Wednesday from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM.

Ash Wednesday Services begin at 6:30 PM, and will consist of Solemn Vespers, the Imposition of Ashes, and the Sung Litany.

ASH WEDNESDAY

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent in the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church. Ashes are placed on the foreheads of Christians on Ash Wednesday in the form of a cross. The words (based on Genesis 3:19) used to accompany this ceremony are, "Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris" — “Remember, O man, that dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." 

Beginning Lent with the imposition of ashes is credited to St. Gregory I, the Great (c. 540–604). The formula, based on the words spoken to Adam and Eve after their fall, reminds the faithful of their own sinfulness and mortality, and thus of their need to repent and turn to Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Fr. William Saunders writes, “The liturgical use of ashes originates in Old Testament times. Ashes symbolized mourning, mortality and penance. For instance, in the Book of Esther, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes when he heard of the decree of King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes, 485-464 B.C.) of Persia to kill all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire (Est 4:1). Job (whose story was written between the 7th and 5th centuries B.C.) repented in sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6). Prophesying the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Daniel (c. 550 B.C.) wrote, "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Dn 9:3). In the fifth century B.C., after Jonah's preaching of conversion and repentance, the town of Ninevah proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, and the king covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the ashes (Jon 3:5-6). These Old Testament examples evidence both a recognized practice of using ashes and a common understanding of their symbolism.

Jesus Himself also made reference to ashes. Referring to towns that refused to repent of sin although they had witnessed the miracles and heard the good news, our Lord said, "If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have reformed in sackcloth and ashes long ago" (Mt 11:21).

The early Church continued the usage of ashes for the same symbolic reasons. In his book, De Poenitentia, Tertullian (c. 160-220) prescribed that the penitent must "live without joy in the roughness of sackcloth and the squalor of ashes." Eusebius (260-340), the famous early Church historian, recounted in his The History of the Church how an apostate named Natalis came to Pope Zephyrinus clothed in sackcloth and ashes begging forgiveness. Also during this time, for those who were required to do public penance, the priest sprinkled ashes on the head of the person leaving confession.

In the Middle Ages (at least by the time of the eighth century), those who were about to die were laid on the ground on top of sackcloth sprinkled with ashes. The priest would bless the dying person with holy water, saying, "Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return." After the sprinkling, the priest asked, "Art thou content with sackcloth and ashes in testimony of thy penance before the Lord in the day of judgment?" To which the dying person replied, "I am content." In all of these examples, the symbolism of mourning, mortality and penance is clear.

Eventually, the use of ashes was adapted to mark the beginning of Lent, the 40-day preparation period (not including Sundays) for Easter. The ritual for the "Day of Ashes" is found in the earliest editions of the Gregorian Sacramentary, which dates at least to the eighth century. About the year 1000, an Anglo-Saxon priest named Aelfric preached: "We read in the books, both in the Old Law and in the New, that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast." As an aside, Aelfric reinforced his point by then telling of a man who refused to go to Church on Ash Wednesday and receive ashes; the man was killed a few days later in a boar hunt. Since this time, the Church has used ashes to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, when we remember our mortality and mourn for our sins.

In our present liturgy for Ash Wednesday, we use ashes made from the burned palm branches distributed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. The priest blesses the ashes and imposes them on the foreheads of the faithful, making the sign of the cross …  As we begin this holy season of Lent in preparation for Easter, we must remember the significance of the ashes we have received: We mourn and do penance for our sins. We again convert our hearts to the Lord, who suffered, died and rose for our salvation. We renew the promises made at our baptism, when we died to an old life and rose to a new life with Christ. Finally, mindful that the kingdom of this world passes away, we strive to live the kingdom of God now and look forward to its fulfillment in Heaven.”

Those of us who have been trying to follow the Lord, but have the humility to recognize the sin in our lives and that we continue fall short of our high calling in Christ, can say on Ash Wednesday, “Today, I will begin again.” And those who have never turned to Christ, or who have fallen away from following Him can say, “Today, I will begin.” Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season is a time for beginnings and for new beginnings. Let us make the most of this important and grace-filled day and season. Please invite family and friends to join us for Ash Wednesday Services. It can be the beginning of a new life as an intentional disciple of Jesus Christ.

To help us begin a holy and spiritually profitable Lent, I am attaching links to a several helpful articles. Please remember that they are written by Eastern Rite priests and may mention certain Eastern Rite Services or practices that do not necessarily apply to us in the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church.

THE HEALING POWER OF FORGIVENESS


ON NOT TRYING HARDER


THE FIRST WEEK OF GREAT LENT: PASTORAL ADVICE


ASH WEDNESDAY SERVICES — Wednesday, February 21

CONFESSIONS will be heard from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM. 

Confessions can also be heard during the Psalms (but not the Canticles) at Solemn Vespers on Wednesday evening.  

SOLEMN VESPERS, IMPOSITION OF ASHES, AND THE SUNG LITANY at 6:30 PM.

Everyone is invited to attend. Visitors are always welcome. We are a faithful, friendly and vibrant parish, and we have a place for you. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you on Ash Wednesday.

Please forgive me, a sinner, for any offense I may have caused you. Pray for me as I do for you. Many God grant us all a holy and spiritually profitable Lent.

HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558