Articles Tagged ‘Message from Fr Gary’

Are you Saved? A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary January 2017

Are you Saved?


Have you been greeted with the question, “Are you saved?” The question is well intentioned, but what is the Orthodox reply? To simply say, “yes,” would give a speedy conclusion to the interrogation, but would not reveal the fullness of the true Orthodox teaching of salvation.

The three stages of salvation in the Orthodox Christian Church are past, present and future. A more specific response to, “Are you saved?” would be, “I was saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.” The road towards eternal life is an ongoing process to the Orthodox Christian.

Salvation is not a one-time deal; it is a course of action that we maintain on a daily basis. We were saved by Christ’s death on the cross, we are saved during our daily walk with Christ and we will be saved at the end of time. The three stages of Salvation are, through Baptism we are justified, during our daily walk with Christ we are sanctified, and in the end times, with Christ, we will be glorified. St. Paul explains that, “We are saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8)” Grace is God’s gift to us. Faith is our reception of that gift. Without God’s Grace and Mercy, we cannot be saved. Basically, our salvation depends strictly on God’s compassion; there is nothing we can do to earn salvation.

Orthodoxy’s concept of “salvation” then leads to the following, very appropriate, question I received in the form of an email: “If everyone is saved at birth through God’s grace and all they need is faith to be saved, and there is nothing we can do to earn God’s Grace, what is the point of attending Church, learning more about religion and following Christ's way, because if you have faith you don't need to work very hard to be saved?”

The best way to respond to this question is to break it down into its components. “Is everyone saved at birth through God’s grace?” At the service of the Forty-Day Churching of a child, the Priest prays, “So that when the child is made worthy of Holy Baptism, it may gain the portion of the elect of Your Kingdom, safeguarded with us by the grace of the Holy Trinity.” We receive God’s grace at Baptism; this is the first step in attaining God’s gift of grace and entering salvation.

“All we need is faith to be saved?” Yes, but this leads to the classic Christian debate of “are we saved by works or by faith?” Our faith in Christ produces fruits, those fruits then are the good works we display during our daily walk with Christ. Therefore, faith and work go hand in hand. Our faith in God and our love for Him produce good works.

“Then there is nothing we can do to earn God’s Grace?” Right, regardless of how many souls we bring to Christ, the amount of empty stomachs we fill and the number of backs we clothe, there is nothing we can do to earn God’s Grace. His Grace is a gift. “Faith is man’s hand reaching up to grasp the already outstretched hand of God’s grace.”

What is the point of at-tending Church, learning more about religion and following Christ's way? First, as mentioned earlier, God’s gift of grace is given at the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is grant-ed because of active participation in the life of the Church. When a child is brought to be baptized an adult (sponsor) stands for the child and promises to live according to Christ’s commands, just as an adult would do when entering the Sacrament. Second, we must remember that nothing we do is worthy of God’s Grace, the reason for attending Church and following Christ’s way is to communicate with God, to receive His grace, and to find sustenance for our daily walk with Him. Some live by the time-worn excuse that “you don’t have to go to church to be a good Christian.” Christ Himself found it important to attend and participate in weekly worship, so by what bench-mark do we feel that we are entitled to do less? At the Last Supper the Lord said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” We some-times say it is our duty to go to church, and it is; but few go for this reason. I would prefer that no one come to church out of a sense of duty. A duty-bound Christian is not a committed soul. The ones who come just from a sense of duty come to criticize. They won't sense the presence of God. The Orthodox church building represents God amongst His people. Our attendance is for communion with Him. When we gather as a Church, that is God’s people, we gather in communion with one another and with Him. Christ tells us in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Sacraments are offered through the Orthodox Church. Through the Sacraments we grow closer to Christ. It is at the Church where we receive Baptism, Chrismation, Unction, Communion and Confession (the five mandatory Sacraments). It is the Church that gives us instruction for the way in which we are to imitate Christ. Can you call yourself a Christian devoid of attending weekly services? Yes. But consider this, could you play on a baseball team and in a game of base-ball without practicing? Yes, but without practice, where do you get your instruction, preparation and fellowship with your team-mates? Going to Church gives us nourishment for life’s challenges.

Salvation is God’s gift to man, as abundant as it is, man must be willing to accept it. Receiving this grace is faith and faith is “Forsaking All I Take Him (F-A-I-T-H).” Are you saved? Yes, we have been, we are being, and we will be saved!



In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Becoming: A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary February 2017

Becoming


As Christians, we are always in the process of “becoming.” The person I am today is not the same person I was 10 years ago, nor am I, who I believe I will be 10 years from now.

One of the most significant spiritual events in my life was the birth of my firstborn son, Harrison. My wife, Christie, was induced, so his birth was planned and not a fire drill. As this new life came into the world I burst into tears as they put him in his mother’s arms. Here was new life, life that didn’t exist moments earlier, a miracle. However, it was not the miracle of birth that was the significant spiritual event, it was the thought that immediately followed: “God’s love for us is truly immense!” This little being that, having never spoken or acted in any way towards me, had just inherited my love. Having done nothing for me, I was prepared to die for him! I was in love! I understood, on a microlevel, what God’s love for us is.

The understanding of this type of love has shaped my experiences. It has transformed my worldview and calling to the Priest-hood. Love, without sounding cliché, is truly the purpose of life. Christ simplified the Law for us, by providing a new standard. In Luke 10: 27, he says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The new standard given to us by Christ is the source of measurement I attempt to implement in my life. What is man’s greatest need? Love. Based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, after food, shelter, and security, love is what man craves most. Ministry should fulfill the need of love. The programs at the St. Demetrios are founded on Christ’s love for us and our love for our neighbor. Bible study groups, Youth Ministry meetings, service at the local Rescue Mission, and Parish Council, etc. are all founded on the principle of love. As I serve the faithful, I am reminded of God’s love for me through the relation-ships built with the flock. Our Lord has entrusted me to serve you with love.

Although I continually find myself in error and mistake, I always endeavor to imitate God’s love. It was that simple, yet profound moment, when my firstborn child came into the world that best illustrates this lesson. It was an experience unlike any other that changed my perspective on many matters in my life and ministry.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Christ-Centered Parish: A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary February - March 2018

Christ-Centered Parish, Fr. Gary’s Message


I learn a lot of interesting things at committee meetings. At one meeting, when discussing the newsletter of our parish, The Myrrh-Bearer, someone frankly said, “Nobody reads that.” That person is either right or wrong depending on how much further you go into this message. At our most recent Parish Council meeting, a parish council member, politely, combined the conversation about healthy church finances with the status of our relationship with Christ.

It wasn’t me, I wasn’t preaching, it was one of YOUR ELECTED OFFICERS, that was sharing this thought. I was mesmerized by his conviction; I looked around at the other members and they were too! The Holy Spirit was present. His inspiration moved us to take the conversation about Parish financial health to a new level.

“Every year we consider ways to raise money. What fundraisers can we hold? How will we meet our obligation to the Metropolis and Archdiocese? How can we motivate better giving? Instead,” he went on, “How can we serve Christ? How can we instill a deep love for Jesus, in every member, young and old, so that our Parish becomes financially healthy and shows greater concern for how Christ-Centered we are as a group?”

It was refreshing to hear a leader of our community express these thoughts. I have offered them in the past, but it is cliché for the priest to say it, because I’m supposed to. A group begins to reexamine the metric for success when a respected member of the Parish Council looks intently at his peers and says, “Are you concerned for your salvation?” If we look at our challenges through the lens of salvation, that is, how what we do will enhance our relationship with Christ, a new perspective is born.

Following this new measurement brings with it a greater purpose. Applying “concern for our salvation” on every ministry, program, event, and meeting at St. Demetrios declares us Christ-Centered people. The Sacraments of our Orthodox Faith: Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Communion, Holy Unction, Confession, Marriage and Ordination, lead us towards a strengthened connection with Christ. A Sacramental view of our Parish affairs, likewise will lead us towards a strengthened connection with Christ. Everything we do is to be considered sacramental.

Consider each component of our life in the Church. How can each aspect (ministry, event, meeting, or program) lead to a greater understanding of who Christ is in our lives? How can we make His love real in the lives of others that participate? Every gathering becomes sacramental! From Moms and Tots, to Orthodoxy on Tap, with our Acolytes and Budget Committee meetings, during our Festival weekends, Greek Dance practices, Sunday School lessons, and at every BBQ, we ask, “how is Christ magnified?”

During this coming year, we will have plenty of opportunities to GLORIFY CHRIST. Let us then GLORIFY Him through all that we do. Then, in the end, all that participate feel His presence and are motivated to carry that inspiration. Slowly we change our local perspective, eventually changing the world.

At the end of that meeting, a council member suggested we create a “Mission Statement” for our Parish. The inspired one, giggled and said, “It’s on the cover of every Sunday Bulletin:

Mission Statement of our St. Demetrios Parish

To proclaim the Gospel of Christ, teach and spread the Orthodox Christian Faith, energize, cultivate, and guide the life of the Church according to the Orthodox Christian Faith and Tradition

After all, I guess not everyone reads everything.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Encounter Christ: A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary Summer 2017

Encounter Christ


Many Evangelical Christians can name the date in which they were “Born Again.” The day in which they made Christ a priority in their life. Many of us, as Orthodox Christians, make that commitment on the day of our Baptism and Christmation, as infants. Are we transformed by the love of Christ? Do we allow ourselves to be transformed by Christ? There is a common theme in the Sunday Gospel readings following Pascha (Easter). Each of these five Sunday Gospels after Pascha distinguish a person (or persons) transformed by Christ.

The Sunday following Pascha we hear of “Doubting” Thomas. Thomas is skeptical about the encounter his brother disciples have with the risen Lord and make a bold proclamation, “Unless I see and touch!” The Lord reveals himself to Thomas and Thomas is immediately transformed. Without having to touch, he exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas encounter’s Christ and his faith is renewed.

The second Sunday after Pascha, we learn of the Myrrh-Bearing Women. These brave women approach the tomb of Christ and find it empty. Having encountered Christ, they return and share the good news with the disciples. Then on the third Sunday after our Lord’s Resurrection the Church shares the story of the paralytic. Although this happens before the Lord’s crucifixion, it holds fast to the theme of “Encountering Christ.” The man has suffered with an infirmity for 38 years- a full generation! When he meets Christ, our Lord transforms him and makes him complete. No longer does the bed confine him, but with Christ’s help, he can lift the bed and glorify Christ!

The Samaritan woman finds the Lord on the fourth Sunday after Pascha. Having to go to the well at the hottest time of the day, because she is embarrassed of her lifestyle, she meets Christ. Relieving her soul of her past transgressions she finds acceptance and love from Christ. She hurries to the city and shares the GOOD NEWS of Christ and “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony. ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So, when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days." (John 5:39-40)

On the fifth Sunday, the Blind man receives his sight. After explaining to His disciples that sin does not lead to physical ailment and that God does not seek justice through punishment, Christ restores the sight of the man born blind. Our Lord explains that challenges in our lives are opportunities for Christ to be glorified through that struggle. The man receives his sight, and in exchange declares, “Lord I believe!” (John 9:38)

Subsequently, these encounters lead to the reception of the Holy Spirit, the Sunday of Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit descends on the Disciples as fiery flames. The Disciples are transformed, the fisherman become Fishers of men! All that meet Christ leave differently than they approached. Thomas, the Myrrh-Bearers, the Paralytic, the Samaritan Woman, the Blind man, all lead changed lives after encountering Christ.

Have we encountered Christ? How can we prepare ourselves for this encounter? How are we transformed by this encounter? We must trans-form ourselves by the love of Christ! To encounter Christ we live by His commandments to, “Love God with all our mind, soul and heart, and love our neighbors as we ourselves.”

To encounter Christ we must worship regularly, privately in our daily lives and corporately at Church. In each of the Sunday liturgies following Pascha we sing, “In our Churches we Glorify Christ!” To encounter Christ we must find him in our service to those less fortunate than ourselves, in our giving and aid. To encounter Christ we must offer forgiveness, and have a change of heart. To encounter Christ, we must imitate Him! Yes, we Orthodox Christians are “Born Again,” EVERYDAY! Our lives are to be filled with encounters with Christ. By allowing Him into our lives again, into our hearts, our lives will never be the same.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Focus On Christ This Lent: A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary March 2017

Focus On Christ This Lent


In an article entitled, The Abomination of our Fathers, Rev. Stephanou writes, “The church appears to be very busy, but in things that are secular and that engage her time in activities of this world." Rev. Stephanou then cites the words spoken by Christ to Martha, “You care and are troubled by many things, but there is need only for one thing. (Luke 10:41)” The one thing is Christ!

As Great Lent 2017 dawns, it is important that we take an inventory of our Spiritual investment. How focused on Christ are we as a Community? It seems that we can focus on budgets, financial statements, festivals, and dinner dances, but how do we fare when it comes to worshiping, glorifying and praising our God? Do we strive to fully please God in our actions? Are we focused?

Recently, during a Sunday Morning Liturgy, the Church was full and I mentioned to the Acolytes, prior to an entrance, how pleased I was to see the Church full in the middle of the winter and, also, admitted that I didn’t recognize one third of those attending. It was a joyful moment! The Liturgy continued and we glorified God in prayer and song.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew (Matt. 14:22-34), Peter asks Christ to allow him to join our Lord on the turbulent sea and walk on the water towards Him. Christ commands Peter to, “Come!” As Peter walks on the water, he loses focus and begins to sink. As Peter kept his eyes on Christ he was able to accomplish an amazing feat, a miracle! But when Peter lost his focus this physical world began to swallow him up. His focus was blurred by the stress and cares of the physical world and he began to sink! Christ, too, tells Martha, “there is need only for one thing.”

One thing . . . . CHRIST! Serving Him! Glorifying Him! Committing ourselves to Him! How well do we do these things? This community is blessed with so many brilliant professionals that share their talents with the Church Administration to help run a terrifically organized operation. It is apparent by the level of this professionalism how our Church excels. Oh, but how I wish on the last day we were judged by the quality of our Festivals, the dignity of our financial statements and the detailed precision of our budgets! Do not misunderstand me, these things are important, they keep the lights on and keep us afloat. It is imperative, though, that we evaluate our priorities in Christ! Why do we have a festival? Why do we have financial concerns? What is our budget for? To glorify Christ! To serve Christ! To show our commitment to Christ!

Starting with me, your Priest, let’s reset our focus this GREAT LENT! Let us reset our direction and let’s start to look deep within ourselves for spiritual growth and wellness. Here are some suggestions for our “Community-wide” LENTEN focus on Christ:

Regular and prompt attendance at Sunday Divine Liturgy. Regular indicates consisted attendance and prompt means being on time. We are on time for our soccer games, for work and school, and never pay $10 to walk into a movie 20 minutes late. It is time for us to reset Sunday as a “Day of Worship,” literally, “The Lord’s Day.” Services begin at 9:00 AM with Orthros. Orthros is a wonderful service, you should attend, but if you cannot, please arrive at 9:45 to prepare for Divine Liturgy.

Daily Prayers. For our community to be focused on Christ, each of us, individually, needs to be set on Christ. Each day should begin with an intimate and personal conversation with Christ, TRUE PRAYER! Ten minutes in the morning, ten minutes in the evening. Prayer should also be offered before meals. As you pray over your food, 2 things should be included: 1.) Offering thanks to God for the blessings in your life, and 2.) A remembrance of the less fortunate.

Volunteer! Join, sign-up, or assist with a ministry of the Church. Consider joining our Choir, Philoptochos, teach Sunday School, or offer your time to help plan and organize one of our many fundraisers.

Educate yourself in the Word of God. Reading the Gospels and meditating on God’s Word is essential to Christian growth. Come to our Orthodox Study Classes after Pre-Sanctified Liturgy on Wednesday evenings and read the Bible daily.

Forgiveness. Mend relationships that for one reason or another have deteriorated. Ask for and seek to offer forgiveness. Do not wait for the other person, you be the mature one and offer reconciliation.

It is easy for us to make ourselves feel busy and active in a Church with so many things and events happening, but the purpose of these “things” and “events” are to help us grow in Christ. Mother Teresa once walked out of a Christian conference on Mission and Evangelism in utter disgust. When asked why she left in the middle of the presentation, the saintly woman kindly responded, “Enough talk, let’s get to work.” Enough talk.

5 things to do this Lent:
1. Attend services, and be on time.
2. Daily Prayer
3. Volunteer
4. Read the Bible
5. Offer forgiveness


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Four in Three: A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary March 2017

Four in Three


Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books of the Bible. We find classic lines like, “To everything there is a season,” or “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” Taken as a whole, the Book of Ecclesiastes is full of wonderful wisdom. During my time at the seminary, a beloved priest professor would encourage us to read the entire book from beginning to end whenever we felt overwhelmed with the pressures of life. This tool served me well as a student, and has become a valuable tool in my ministry to Christ’s Church. A Priest witnesses all the emotions of life. You rejoice at the birth of a child and you mourn with the passing of a loved one. Ecclesiastes verbalizes this sentiment well.

In the past three weeks, I have participated in four funerals. Four beloved individuals left this world in the hope of the resurrection. Two funerals were for 30 something year old’s and two funerals were for 80 something year old’s, yet their loved ones shed the equal number of tears at each of the funerals. All four individuals left behind the same thing, a lasting memory of the relationships developed. Their grieving loved ones mourn their physical losses.

In late February, we lost Kevin, a 33 year old loving husband, father of two, son and good friend. Kevin battled stage 4 oral cancer for 16 months before leaving this life. During his last days, as he prepared to die, he taught those around him how to live! His love for baseball inspired a road trip, with his father, to San Francisco to see his beloved Giants play, and the holidays gave him the opportunity to express his love for his family and friends as they showered him with their loving sentiments. I stood, in rapt amazement, watching his beautiful young wife, with her their two year old child in her arms, sharing cherished memories. She made us laugh and she made us cry, but she reminded us that our hope as Christians is in our Lord’s Resurrection.

In early March, an alarming phone call described Patti’s condition. An otherwise healthy 36 year old had an aneurism and was on life support. Her loving family and friends at her bedside, praying for what looked like a sleeping angel to wake and sit up in her bed. Two days later, after her parish priest, family and friends recited the Lord’s prayer over her Patti’s spirit left her body to enter the next life. A sudden passing. Much more abrupt than Kevin’s departure, yet just as tragic. Her mother and father, brother and soon to be sister-in-law expressed confidence in their understanding of God’s hope. Their courage stems from a lifetime of faith and participation in the Church, which leads them to assurance of the resurrection.

In that same week, we lost Christo Pulos. A blessed man that leaves behind a legacy that will persistently rival imitation. He loved his family, his church, his friends with deep devotion and care. Each of his tasks were completed with meaningful detail. His presence at St. Demetrios will always be marked by his imprints on our hearts. He passed this life two days after his 85th birthday, and yet the mourning reigned; sadness as we endure another loss. Nick Varnava gave a loving testimony to Chris’ service to our Church and the Air Force provided an eloquent expression of his service to our country.

A few days later another World War Two veteran passed. Tom was a decorated member of the Air Force, an American with great pride of his Spartan roots. His loving life memorialized by his grandson, the he raised as his own son, his son, wife, step children and grandchildren. All lamented the loss of another member of the “Greatest Generation.”

Four funeral in three weeks left me craving an opportunity to dive into Ecclesiastes. Before Tom’s graveside service I walked the grounds of the cemetery taking in the names marked on the headstones. I thought about Kevin, Patti, Christo and Tom. I thought about the loved ones I watched cry as they grieved their loss. I thought about the words that were spoken, separately, about each one of them. The theme of Christ’s resurrection echoed through my mind. Other portions of Ecclesiastes resonated. “A good name is better than good olive oil, and the day of one’s death than the day of one’s birth.” (Ecc. 7:1) A name on a marker is what we leave behind if we live foolishly, but to those that believe in Christ and have the hope of His resurrection, that marker becomes a stepping stone to eternal joy.

This is the time of year we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection. Sometimes we take for granted the Paschal responses. Lethargically saying, “Christ is Risen,” to which we receive a tired, “Truly He is risen.” Considering the events of the last three weeks, it is imperative to express our conviction in His Resurrection! Those closest to Kevin, Patti, Christo and Tom, expressed their desire to be reunited in the next life. Belief and hope come from our faith in Christ. Holy Week shows us the love God has for us. He, willingly, climbed up on to the cross, died a violent death, to reassure us that He wants us to be with Him in the next life. All the sorrow in the world has no power over that expression of love. Death no longer restricts us from God’s heavenly embrace. As we fervently chant, “CHRIST IS RISEN,” we lovingly testify and memorialize the legacy of those that have passed before us. “Truly, He is risen” for this is the reason we celebrate!


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

God’s Holy Word: A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary September 2017

God’s Holy Word


A great benefit of spending time at summer camp is the opportunity to disconnect from technology. Not having a phone or internet connection gets you excited to receive mail. A great joy is receiving a (good old fashioned) letter from home. The delight in holding an envelope with the familiar handwriting of a loved one is a highlight for all the staff, counselors and campers. Everyone gets electrified when they get mail (real, handwritten, stamped envelope mail).

One afternoon at St. Sophia Camp, the Director handed me a small envelope sent to me from Christie. I took it, looked at it and put it in my pocket. “You gonna read it?” He asked. I nodded, smiled and walked to the chapel to prepare for evening vespers. I placed it on the altar and put my vestments on for the service.

Vespers ended and the kids were excited to go up the hill to mail call, anticipating their own letters and packages. Prior to their leaving the chapel I shared with them the unopened envelope from my wife. I asked, “What if I just set this letter from my wife on my night stand and never opened or read it?” The responses were touching and hilarious.

One little guy said, “I think you should read it, it will make you happy!” Another jokingly said, “You might end up sleeping on the couch if you don’t.” An older teen girl said, “That’s just coldhearted, what if she wants you to do something, if you don’t read it you’ll never know.” Great answers. The entire camp agreed that I should open and read the letter.

I lifted a Bible.

“This is a letter,” I said. “A letter from God.” They understood the message; however, I went on to explain.

We let our Bibles sit on our night stands or our bookshelves, scarcely to be opened. If we treat messages from our Earthly loved ones with such care and excitement, we should treat the message from our Heavenly Father with the same enthusiasm. It will “make us happy,” contains instructions, and is “coldhearted” if we ignore it.

I once received an email that illustrated the differences in which we treat our cell phone versus our Bible (see page 4). Let’s readjust our priorities. Let’s make reading and studying Holy Scripture a significant part of our day. We should take a few moments, at least once a day, to receive inspiration from the Word of God.

St. John Chrysostom urges us to use Scripture as we would any other chest of medicines. The Bible is a treasury with remedies for every ailment. “Take from there comfort for your trouble, be it loss, or death, or bereavement of relations; or rather do not merely dive into them but take them wholly to yourself, keeping them in your mind." (Hom. IX On Colossians) Further, he reminds us that knowledge of Scripture protects us, and ignorance of it results in a multitude of evils. "This is the cause of all evils,” he says, “the not knowing the Scriptures. We go into battle without arms, how are we to come off safe?" (Hom. IX On Colossians)

There are several ways to navigate a daily habit of reading the Bible. First you can visit our Church website (www.saintdem.org) and signup to receive an email each morning that contains the daily readings prescribed by the Church. Another way is to open to the back of your Orthodox Study Bible and follow the plan provided, and then the easiest way is to start at the beginning of a specific book and just, simply, read a little bit at a time. For those who say they have read the Bible from end to end and have no need to participate, St. John Chrysostom says, "It is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom." (Hom. XIX On Acts)

Let’s dive into the well! Let’s make the institution of God’s Holy Word an important part of our daily routine. Don’t let that loving letter just sit on your nightstand, open it, read it and be inspired by the wonderful message contained within it.

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?

What if we gave it to friends as gifts?

What if we used it when we traveled?

What if we used it in case of emergency?

This is something to make you go….hmm…where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being

disconnected, because Jesus already paid the bill. Makes you stop and think, “Where are my priorities?”.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Hurricane Harvey: A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary October-November 2017

Hurricane Harvey


With all the tragic events happening in our world today: hurricanes earthquakes and shootings, it is comforting to know that our Orthodox Christian Church plays an active role in the recovery efforts. As a frontliner for the IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) I can be deployed for any number of catastrophes to offer emotional and spiritual care (ESC). Following our deployment we are to submit a report to identify some of the work we encountered. The following is part of my incident report. The names have been changed to protect identities.

Some of the most touching visits I had with those that had lost everything were:
● Wheelchair bound woman, approximately 55 years old. Lives in 9 story building across the street. As soon as she realized that the Brown Convention Center was opened to those displaced she came over to lend a hand. Working off very little sleep. Was very emotional and shared many, many stories and encounters. The most telling was:

She took guardianship of a (total) stranger’s children (3 kids ages 7 and younger), while this stranger went into labor to deliver her fourth child.

● Sheriff Deputies were really shaken at the loss of one their officers, Steve Perez. Officer Perez was a longtime veteran of the HPD. On Sunday, the day of the storm it was his day off, but against the wishes of his wife, he went to offer assistance. His vehicle hit a floodedroad and was washed away and drowned. “That’s the kind of guy he was,” cried Fitzgerald.

● As Fr. Jordon and I were vesting, Fr. Luke sent the Acolyte staff and Sexton to introduce themselves. As Fr. Jordon asked the Sexton, “How are you and your home?” Joe, the sexton, said, “I am blessed, no damage. My sister and my brother in law were rescued from their home and are staying with me. My brother in law is recovering from cancer treatments.” This caught my ear and I asked, “What is your brother in law’s name?” He said, “Saad.” “Saad is my father in law’s cousin.” Emotional embrace! “6 million people in Houston,” cried Joe, “and this is how we meet.” I received the blessing from Fr. Luke to visit my relatives. Their home was flooded and as Saad was to weak from his battle with cancer, had difficulty evacuating. A group of volunteers pulled near their home on a boat and rescued them from the flood waters. The water reached the second level of their home.

I was honored to spend my time in Houston helping those that were affected by Hurricane Harvey.

IOCC MAKE A
DIFFERENCE DAY

IOCC is celebrating 25 years this year and we have been asked that our youth make posters. On Sunday October 29th, we would like to have the youth of your parishes make posters (use your creativity) saying THANK YOU to IOCC, with the children writing something and signing their names.

Perhaps even have an offering tray or host the coffee hour that Sunday to raise funds for IOCC, and maybe even have a young person say something about the work IOCC does. These posters and any other efforts made will be presented at the Anniversary Gala, which will be held Sat. Nov. 11th at St. Steven’s Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Alhambra. We will even come and pick up the posters and any funds raised ourselves to make this even easier for you.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

MAKE IT HAPPEN: A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary December 2017

MAKE IT HAPPEN, Fr. Gary’s Message


In 2008 we were at Skyway Drive dreaming of a new building, today we are experiencing that dream come true. We have shared a lot of visions and goals in the last decade here at St. Demetrios. We sat in the valley of doubt and stared up at the mountain top of success often. Sitting there, some would whisper, “It’s not gonna happen.” We took on debt to purchase land then paid off that debt. We started fundraising campaigns, we asked for pledges and they came in. We all participated in giving towards the need of our collective DREAM and we did it! Success never happens if you sit in the valley merely hoping to be at the mountain top. Success only comes before work in the dictionary!

It’s time to get back to work. The configuration of our community looks much different than it did a decade ago. The pews on Sunday mornings are filled with many new faces. Some may not have had the opportunity to experience the pressures imposed by the undertaking of those dreamers. “Build it and they will come,” we recited meeting after meeting. Now here we are, together as one community, enjoying the benefits of a shared dream that started over 40 years ago. In the last several years we have made great progressions, but the need is the same now, as it was then, if not greater.

Today we sit in the valley of a $1.9 million loan. We have 8 years to eliminate that debt. A new Capital Campaign is beginning. 100% participation is needed from every family and parishioner at St. Demetrios. In the last 13 years the Golf Tournament has grown from a $3,000.00 annual event to an $82,000.00 annual event. The Golf Tournament has quietly grown into a year-round event in terms of planning, execution and most importantly sponsorship. Today the Capital Campaign and the Golf Tournament merge to encourage us to achieve the mountain top of success.

The Capital Campaign is driven by the concept of generous Gift Givers. These can come in all sizes and many forms, from $1000 to $1 million/per year. We have 8 years to retire $1.9 million, so it is time to get creative as we look to our Stewards and others in the surrounding community to support such a large need.

Although it sounds crazy what we need is an ARMY OF FINANCIAL ANGELS! These ANGELS can provide Gifts in many forms:

1. Annual Gifts
2. Capital Campaign Pledge Cards (starting in 2018 to be fulfilled by 2022)
3. Endowment and Tax Planning
4. Estate Planning and Family Trusts
5. After Life Gifts

Many of these charitable ideas can be favorable from not only a tax standpoint, but from a Spiritual standpoint to fulfill the vision of St. Demetrios in Ventura County. St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

The Golf Tournament and the Capital Campaign is CoChaired by Joe and Mary Freeth, George Joannou and Fr. Gary Kyriacou. If you would like to assume the role of a FINANCIAL ANGEL and be a “cheerful giver,” please contact Fr. Gary at 805 443-3376, Mary Freeth at 805-390-9551, Joe Freeth at 805-390-9553 or George Joannou at 805-231-8696 Together, each committing to give what we can, we can eliminate the loan and continue to enjoy the rich blessings our Lord has bestowed upon us. Please take some time and prayerfully consider your contribution today.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary April 2016

Message from Fr Gary April 2016

An Oxymoron in Holy Week

I am fascinated by oxymorons. These hypocritical expressions really don't mean anything at all, do they? For example, what, when you REALLY think about it, is a "Jumbo Scrimp?" What does it mean to have an "original copy," or "freezer burn?" Have you ever gotten an "exact estimate" or "plastic glasses?" We all know what these terms refer to, but upon closer examination they really do seem quite odd and silly.

During Holy Week, specifically on Great and Holy Friday (which is an oxymoron in and of itself- seriously, we refer to the day that Christ is Crucified as "Great" and "Good."), we will read about the "Good Thief." How can a thief be good? If he were being punished by crucifixion, then he must have committed a horrific crime. Crucifixion was used for slaves, rebels, pirates and especially-despised enemies and criminals. Therefore crucifixion was considered a most shameful and disgraceful way to die. Our Lord was severely beaten and crucified for our sake, namely, forgiveness of our sins. This "Thief," the good one, was being punished for an appalling crime, he wasn't a good person. Through Christ's compassion he finds salvation.

This "Good Thief' is actually "The Ultimate Thief." He stole his way into the Kingdom of Heaven! We are told in the earlier chapters of the Gospels by our Lord that we can find salvation even at the 11th hour! The Ultimate Thief was able to get his foot into the Kingdom at the last minute of that 11th Hour! There are three lessons can we learn from this Thief's transformation and repentance. First, Christ is approachable, second, Christ wants us to be with Him, and lastly, Christ keeps His promises.

The first lesson we can take from this Thief is, "There is never a bad time to approach Christ." Our Lord was hanging on a cross, in a lot of pain, and feeling the anguish of the persecution, and yet this brave man endearingly asks the Lord for permission to be with Him in the Kingdom. Apparently, there are times when we go through life thinking that we can handle our difficulties on our own. Sure enough, the Thief was on the verge of death and knew that his end was near. In his desperation he knew to turn to Christ. It is imperative that we have the same desire to turn to our Lord in moments of pain.

Another lesson we learn from the "Ultimate Thief," is it doesn't matter what your past was like, it depends on your attitude at the present moment and your desire to change your ways. As mentioned previously, the Thief was on the verge of his death, and he knew that his past was checkered with wrong-doings, but his desire to be with Christ led him towards a contrite heart.

Let's not forget that a few hours earlier, this "Ultimate Thief' was ridiculing Christ with the other Robber on the cross. It is only after our Lord says, "Father forgive them," that the Thief has his change of heart. Notice that Christ doesn't say, "Please Father, forgive them," but emphatically says, "Father, forgive them." The Ultimate Thief realizes the authority possessed by Christ and comes to identify Him as Lord and Savior. We should never be ashamed of what transpired in our past, Christ cares about our desire to change, repent and live a new life in Him!

The final lesson we can learn from this Ultimate Thief is Christ keeps His promises. In our Church's great wisdom, through Her Tradition and prayers, this Ultimate Thief is remembered at every Divine Liturgy! Prior to approaching for Holy Communion, faithful Orthodox Christians pray, "I will not kiss you as did Judas, but hike the thief will I confess to you: "Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom." The fact that our Church uses the Thief's dying words to also express our desire to be in communion with Christ and to be with Him in the Kingdom additionally proves that the Thief was made a citizen of the Kingdom.

As we gather our thoughts and reflect upon the events that emerge because of Holy Week it further strengthens us to know that our Lord can take an oxymoron and turn him into a Citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. Far is it for us to decide who gets in and who stays out, that judgment is reserved for our Lord! What we should be concerned with is our, genuine, desire to be in the Kingdom with our Lord. When a conversation includes an oxymoron, or when any of life's circumstances offer you a chance to use an oxymoron, allow your mind to recall the Thief on the Cross, the GOOD Thief on the Cross and how he edged his way into an eternity with God. Maybe the next time you are stuck in "Rush Hour," told to "Act Naturally, or have a craving for "Junk Food" your mind might summon the actions of the GOOD THIEF.

In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary Dec 2015

Message from Fr Gary Dec 2015

Challenges for 2016

St. Paul inspires the Hebrews to stand firm and increase their desire to be like Christ. In his letter to the Hebrews, at 12:1, he writes, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Life as a race is a metaphor we can easily comprehend. The clever athlete prepares weeks in advance, she doesn’t wait until the night before to start her training. As Orthodox Christians we are “ATHLETES FOR CHRIST.” In this month’s Myrrh-bearer, I would like to issue a “challenge” for the upcoming New Year, 2016. I ask that we all adhere to this “Spiritual Training” as a way for us to grow in our Faith.

Beginning January 1, 2016, as a Community New Year’s Resolution, I ask that we all:

1. Attend Sunday Divine Liturgy regularly and promptly: Sundays are SACRED. Our planners should indicate that we are busy on Sunday mornings, because we are called to corporate prayer. Always arrive promptly for Sunday Liturgy. Just as we are on time for our soccer games, work and school, and never pay $10 to walk into a movie 20 minutes late, let us set Sunday as a “Day of Worship,” literally, “The Lord’s Day.” Services begin at 10:00AM (Orthros at 9:00)

2. Daily Prayers. Constant communication with God is imperative as believers. I ask that we pray the following prayer each day for specific groups of our Parish:

O Lord, our God, please bless the _________________________ with a sacred desire to serve with gladness and dedicated hearts. Assign a Guardian Angel to walk before them so that they grow in faith and discernment. Multiply their efforts, sanctify their work and bless all of their endeavors. Grant them well-being and health. Grant them understanding, peace and happiness in this life to help them fulfill Your will. AMEN

· Mondays: Pray for the leadership of our Parish. Pray for our Parish Council, Committee Chairpersons and Members of: AHEPA, Building (PDI), Capital Campaign, Coffee Hour, Daughters of Penelope, Golf Tournament, Greek Festival, Legal, Stewardship and Website Committees

· Tuesdays: Pray for our Irene Chapter of the Ladies of Philoptochos.

· Wednesdays: Pray for the Youth of our community: Altar Boys, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Youth Dance Groups, Greek School and Sunday School teachers and their Students, and all the young people of our church.

· Thursdays: Pray for our Parea Group, VIPs and all of the senior citizens of our parish.

· Fridays: Pray for those who contribute to the enrichment of our Church. Pray for our Chanters, Choir, Staff, Stewards, Ushers, and Volunteers.

· Saturdays: Pray for the parishioners of St. Demetrios and any one that might be sick, suffering, lonely or seeking to find God’s peace.

· Sundays: Pray for the everlasting memory of our departed loved ones. Pray for the Orthodox Christian Church. Our Patriarch Bartholomew, Metropolitan Gerasimos, all clergy, deacons, monastics who God has established to feed the flock of Your Word.

3. Educate yourself in the Word of God. A weekday, Monday-Friday, reading guide has been prepared for the year. By sticking to this plan you will read the entire New Testament (The Gospel of Matthew through Revelation) by the end of the 2016. Milestones are easily set and marked so that you do not fall behind. Reading and knowing God’s Word is essential to Christian growth.

4. Offer Forgiveness. Mend relationships that, for one reason or another, have deteriorated. Ask for and seek to offer forgiveness. Do not wait for the other person, you be the mature one and offer reconciliation.

May 2016 be a year of spiritual strength and growth!

Have a Happy New Year, and may the peace of God be with us all!

In His grace now and always,

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary February 2016

The Steward Ship, Get on the Boat!

Message from Fr Gary February 2016

The Steward Ship, Get on the Boat!

The Steward Ship is the newest and latest craze! It is a way to encounter fascinating and exciting adventure! The Steward Ship will change your life. Let the Steward Ship transform your outlook. . . take a little trip . . . and . . . GET ON THE BOAT!

The Steward Ship offers youth, energy, and renewal! It offers direction for the lost, hope for the hopeless, and does not cost you anything more than what it has already given to you. Imagine that, receiving all this at a value you decide! The Steward Ship’s Captain is expecting you to board, He can’t wait to see you. The Sail has been adjusted, the invitation is set, and the Destination awaits you.

You say you don’t have TIME to get on the BOAT. You say you don’t have enough TREASURE to share for your ride. You say you don’t have the TALENT to assist with the direction of the BOAT. No worries! The Captain (our Savior Jesus Christ) wants you on the Boat. The Sail (the Holy Spirit) will guide you. The Destination (the Kingdom of Heaven) awaits you.

How are you using your TIME, TREASURE, and TALENT? Is the Boat afloat only when you think you want to take a casual cruise? Do you want the confidence of owning a season pass to ride the BOAT forever? What can you do?

The Steward Ship needs you to provide your TIME, TREASURE, and TALENT.

TIME, TREASURE, TALENT:

Volunteer to assist with the various ministries our Cathedral offers. Are you a teacher? Then teach. Do you enjoy meeting and greeting people? Then provide support at coffee hour after Divine Liturgy. Can you cook? Then cook! Do you enjoy a comfortable lifestyle? Then share a small percentage with your Church. Do you have a beautiful voice? Then sing in our Choir!

The BOAT won’t set sail without you! The Steward Ship has a cabin for everyone! You have to decide how you wish to ride. What is the worth of arriving at the Destination? When you are given the option to enter the Destination, will you have secured your ticket?

Every moment we are given the opportunity to share our TIME, TREASURE, and TALENT. Don’t pass on the ability to give! Don’t let the Blessings of the Steward Ship go unused! Help the Steward Ship set sail. Get on, take a seat, and ask what you can do for STEWARDSHIP!

In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Steward Ship Card

Message from Fr Gary Jan 2016

Message from Fr Gary Jan 2016

BE A PIG!

A pig and a chicken were walking by a Church one day. They noticed a sign that said, “Free Bacon and Egg Breakfast this Saturday.” The chicken insisted to the pig that they should attend. The pig was quite hesitant. As the chicken’s patience evaporated he asked, “What’s the problem? Let’s go! At least we can see how they prepare our offerings.” The pig scared and panicky said, “My friend in the preparation of a bacon and egg breakfast, you are ‘involved,’ however, I AM COMMITTED!”

As we begin the New Year I want to urge us all to be PIGS! How much more invested is one that dedicates their entire being to the community, rather than just making an offering. Anyone can be involved, (and that can be a good thing), but it is commitment to one another, to Christ and His Church that is going to make our community successful! And success is determined by our faithful desire to be true servants of Christ!

“Let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God!” This wonderful petition is repeated many times during the Divine Liturgy. In everything we do, every ministry, from the oldest parishioner to the youngest, this petition serves as our premise and foundation of faith.

In order for our community to be the light of Christ, we must be committed to our Church. Being involved in the ministry of our Parish is acceptable, but our commitment to our Church is the fundamental key to it’s success. There is a major difference between “involvement” and “commitment.”

In the Melanesian islands of the South Pacific during WWII, the natives watched closely as the American and British engineers came in and built airstrips. The islanders were amazed to see that when the airstrips were completed, planes began to arrive filled with cargo: food, building materials, machinery, even vehicles. This, they decided, was something they wanted in on. The Melanesians deduced, that if they built airstrips, then planes would come to them, too, likewise bringing cargo.

They accordingly hacked makeshift runways out of the jungle and built mock-up control towers out of grass and mud. They put fires along the sides of the runways, and put a man in the grass-hut control tower, with two coconut halves on his head for headphones, they rigged antennas out of bamboo and then they waited for the airplanes to land. As far as they could see they were doing everything right.

The form was perfect. It looked exactly the way it was supposed to. But it didn’t work. No airplanes ever came. (John Derbyshire, National Review Online, June 14, 2002 "It’s All America’s Fault: The cargo-cult mentality")

We, like the natives, can come into the sanctuary, light our candles, kiss the icons, do our cross, and make believe that we are fruitful Christians, or we can “commit ourselves and one another to Christ” and be the bearers His light! Commitment is defined in three ways: 1.) noun: the trait of sincere and steadfast fixity of purpose, 2.) noun: the act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action, 3.) noun: a message that makes a pledge.

The New Year presents us many opportunities to offer ourselves to one another, Christ, and His Church. The first way to commit ourselves is to become true stewards of the Church, by submitting an adequate pledge and financial donation to our Church. Our giving must be elevated to reflect the beauty and true needs of our new Agape Building. Prayerfully consider a pledge that reflects the responsibility that has been entrusted to us. Another way to show your commitment is to attend wor-ship services faithfully. Divine Liturgy begins promptly at 10:00 AM every Sunday. Let’s set aside the early hours of Sunday morning to commune with God. Also, the coming spring brings with it Great Lent and the opportunity to advance our spiritual lives. Participate in the Lenten services with your family. Still another “commitment” is to serve at our Annual Greek Festival (June 24-26). The Greek Festival is a great way for us to display the richness of our Greek Culture and an even better opportunity to demonstrate our Orthodox

Faith, our Christian Ethos and “COMMITMENT” to one another and our greater community.

We all begin the New Year by making resolutions, promises we will fulfill, and some we may never realize. This Year may our shared declaration be our “Commitment to one another and to Christ our God!” I am committed to leading St. Demetrios along the sparkling path of our Orthodox Faith. Join me on this journey as we strive to serve each other, implementing the words St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

In other words….Be a pig!

Happy New Year!

In Christ’s Service,

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary March 2016

Message from Fr Gary March 2016

The recent drought and the threat of “El Nino” have given me the opportunity to reflect on Great and Holy Lent. Every Spring I give thought to what I’m going to give up for Lent, as if taking something away from my everyday routine or diet is going to help my spiritual growth. Lenten spiritual growth should be compared to the care of a garden. There are very few things to take away from a garden to keep it healthy. Actually, it is imperative to add items, and of course, when a weed appears we quickly pluck it. The health of the garden relies mostly on what is added to it. This is how we should approach Great and Holy Lent.

Year after year we talk about what we are “giving up” for Lent: meat, dairy, television, rock music, video games, etc. Removing certain items from our lives is a good practice and an integral part of a productive Lenten Season, but the things we give up are similar to weeds. Merely plucking the weeds does not insure the health of the garden. It takes hard work! The garden needs good soil and adequate sunlight and water to grow. Much like our souls require a steady course of prayer, almsgiving and Holy Scripture to do the same. We are not going to mature in our Faith by simply altering our diet.

It is just as important to consider what we are going to add in to our Lenten regimen as it is to purify our bodies and environment by giving things up.

Imagine willing a garden to grow without the proper amount of water, sunlight and good soil. You can grab a cold glass of lemonade and beg the seeds to mature as you stand by idly, or you can roll up your sleeves and give the garden what it needs to succeed. The same is true of our souls. During the forty plus days of Lent, how are we imagining the appearance of our souls? We have the opportunity to tend to our souls and let them grow full and strong, or we can stand by and risk them becoming barren and dry.

Lent is a time for discipline, but it’s also a joyful time in which we open our hearts and souls so that God can sow the seeds of faith that will grow and give us strength for the challenges we face throughout the rest of the year. Let us examine our hearts and souls, making sure we pluck the weeds that we find, but giving even more energy to ensuring adequate resources for growth in our faith, and in our love for each other.

O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of laziness, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant.

Yes, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brothers and sisters, for You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Lenten Prayer Of St. Ephrem The Syrian

REGULAR, PROMPT ATTENDANCE AT DIVINE LITURGY ON SUNDAYS Regular indicates consistent attendance and prompt means being on time. We are on time for soccer games, work and school, and few of us would pay $10 to walk into a movie 20 minutes late. It is time for us to re-devote Sunday as a day of worship, literally The Lord’s Day. We should be at church no later than 9:45 am on Sundays.

DAILY PRAYER In order for our community to be focused on Christ, each of us, individually, needs to be set on Christ. Each day should begin with an intimate and personal conversation with Christ; TRUE PRAYER for at least ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening. Prayer should also be offered before meals. As you pray over your food, think about offering thanks to God for the blessings in your life, and also remember those less fortunate.

GIVING OUR TIME Join, sign-up, or assist with a ministry of the Church. Cheerfully offering time to the choir, Philoptochos, Sunday School, or one of our many fundraisers can bring a great feeling of connection to the Church and satisfaction to your life.

EDUCATING OURSELVES IN THE WORD OF GOD Reading the Gospels and meditating on God’s Word is essential to Christian growth. Come to our Orthodox Study Classes and read the Bible daily.

FORGIVENESS Mend relationships that, for one reason or another, have deteriorated. Ask for and seek to of-fer forgiveness. Do not wait for the other person to extend the olive branch; offer reconciliation and pray for those with whom you’ve been in conflict.

In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary May 2016

Message from Fr Gary May 2016

Map It

Preparing for a fishing expedition, I handed a copy of a map of the lake to each of my boys. It was a copy of an original and an old one at that. You could see the residue that accumulated on the copy print after print after print. We gathered our supplies, some tackle, snacks, drinks and a variety of activities to help us with our patience.

After approving the snacks and activities one of the boys asked an important question. While pointing to the map he asked, “Where are we going to fish?” “Right there,” I said touching the map and pointing to a corner of the lake. He responded, “How do we get there?” “Well,” I said, “you follow this road and turn left up over here.” “And how do you know that? Have you been there before?” “No,” I said, “never been there. We’ll follow the map.” “Who drew the map, Dad?” “Someone who knows the lake.”

Finally, I understood his point! He wanted to know why I was placing my faith in this map, trusting that it would help us to our destination. When we finally arrived at our fishing spot, we sat there for half a day and caught nothing, nada, zilch, not a bite! But all the while as we sat, waiting, I kept thinking about the exchange outside the Outpost earlier that day. Our Orthodox Faith is like a map. It helps us stay on track and helps lead us towards our destination, which is the entrance into God’s Kingdom.

This life is not the end of our existence, merely the introduction to a never-ending, everlasting, eternal life with our Lord in His Kingdom. Do we take full advantage of the benefits our map (the Orthodox Faith) offers us? Or do we frame it for all to see, to enjoy its beauty, never really getting our hands on it, to study it, crinkle it and learn from it.

Orthodoxy offers us the greatest expression of Christianity. Through the study of Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the determination to live a Sacramental Life, we have the tools to reach our destination. But do we compartmentalize our lives and wear our Church clothes on Sunday and take them off the rest of the week, not giving it another thought until the next Sunday?

In Psalm 37:23 we read, “The Lord guides a man in the way he should go and protects those who please Him.” The Bible offers us a guide for life circumstances. It teaches us how to deal with anger, with our enemies, how to help others, and how to live like Christ. From the Tradition of the Church, our Church Fathers tell us in the Didache (The Teaching, an early manuscript of Christian writings) there are two ways to live: “One of life, and one of death, and there is a great difference between them.” The Didache goes deep into the teachings of Christ, expanding upon them, reminding us of the two great commandments, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” Living Sacramentally is an essential aspect of imitating Christ. Everyone of the seven sacraments offers us the opportunity to restore our relationship with God (The Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Baptism, Christmation, Eucharist, Unction, Marriage, Confession, and Ordination are all avenues towards the same location (note that marriage and ordination are the only two sacraments that are optional, Baptism and Chrismation are offered once and for all time, but as Orthodox Christians we are required to regularly participate in the Eucharist -communion, Confession and Unction.) The Sacraments reestablish our bond and connection with God. It is a way to secure of our spiritual foundation.

No one builds a house without blueprints and it would be foolish to set out on a journey without first considering the destination. Every now and then we need to reset our compass and make sure we are on the right path.

Where are we going and how do we get there are great questions. The answers are found in our Orthodox Church; Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition and a Sacramental Life. Let’s reset and set your sights on the purpose of our being, finding communion with God in His Kingdom.

In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary Nov 2015

Message from Fr Gary Nov 2015

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. For His mercy endures forever!” Psalm 136:1 On Thursday, November 26, we will celebrate Thanksgiving. This is an important holiday in our great nation; however, giving thanks is an even more important aspect of the Christian life. Businesses and schools will close so that we can enjoy the festivities with our families. What a splendid day! Surrounded by our closest friends and family, we stuff our faces with traditional foods like turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, (and if you grew up in a Greek family, grape leaves; something the Pilgrims didn’t have!). In countries throughout the world, the last Thursday in November is exactly that, merely the last Thursday in November. It is nothing special, just business as usual.

It is an ideal American Tradition to specifically acknowledge gratitude in November, but as Orthodox Christians we must realize that we do this on a weekly basis (at least) in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. The climax of the liturgy, the Eucharist (Holy Communion) is Christ offering His Body and Blood for our salvation! Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucaristo, which means, “Thank you.”

THE DIVINE LITURGY was in practice right after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Disciples of Christ on the 50th day after His Resurrection. It was officiated long before the beginning of the writings of the New Testament. The Divine Liturgy, as such, was the center of the inspiration of the first Christians in their communion with God and with one another. Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald writes, “The Eucharist is not so much a text to be studied, but rather an experience of communion with the Living God in which prayer, music, gestures, the material creation, art and architecture come into full orchestration. The Eucharist is a celebration of faith, which touches not only the mind but also the emotions and the senses.”

The description we clergy usually hear about liturgy is, “It’s too long!” or “We stand too much!” Boredom, during the Divine Liturgy is a classic symptom, however it is one that is easily cured. If you find yourself daydreaming during liturgy, try one of the following suggestions: 1.) Focus your attention on a specific icon and pray to that Saint. Pray that distractions are deflected and that your heart is opened. 2.) Open the Divine Liturgy text and follow along. Read the inaudible prayers that the Priest recites during the hymns. This will improve your understanding of the liturgical functions of the Priest. 3.) From the text of the liturgy choose a specific petition and dissect it, giving it a more precise definition (i.e. “For travelers by land, sea, and air, for the sick, the suffering, the captives, and for their salvation, let us pray to the Lord.”) Who do you know that is traveling? Is your spouse on a business trip? Do you know any one who may be sick, suffering, or held in captivity? Then pray for them. This is what the liturgy is about. It is not a choir performance, or a chanting exhibition. The word “liturgy” literally means, “the work of the people.”

The work that we are called to do during liturgy is to pray, “pray for peace in the world, abundance of the fruits of the earth, and peaceful times.” All the prayers offered in the Divine Liturgy are presented in the plural form, “Let us pray,” “Save us, O Son of God,” “Let us be attentive,” “For our deliverance,” “We give thanks,” “Make us worthy, O Master,” etc!

Our Lord pours His blessings and mercy upon us daily! He makes us worthy to receive His loving grace, and His love for us is boundless. That our country puts everything on hold, and as great as an American Holiday that Thanksgiving is, we should find ourselves giving thanks on a more regular basis. Our Lord has blessed us with so much. Our community of St. Demetrios should be thankful for the many great blessings we receive on a daily basis!

In His grace now and always,

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary Oct 2015

From Father Gary

October brings with it some very exciting events. Our kids are back in school, college football is back in full swing and hopefully a local team enters the World Series. The harvest is set and the lots are filled with pumpkins. Every good farmer knows that in order to harvest a crop you must first till the soil and prepare the earth. The same holds true for us Christians– we too are called to produce fruits of virtue.

Christ reminds us of this in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9). The sower tossed seeds on a path, rocky ground, then some seeds fell in the thorns, and finally some were placed in the good soil. Consider the outcome of each of the settings the seeds rested. Those on the path were eaten by birds, those on the rocky ground sprang up, could not take root and fell, the seeds in the thorns were choked, only the seeds that fell on the good soil brought forth grain, some even one hundred fold!

The seeds in this parable are likened to the teachings we receive from Holy Scripture, writings of the Saints, and instruction from our spiritual leaders. For the seed to take effect the soil must be prepared to accept it. The setting for the seed depends on how we choose to maintain the soil, how we choose to live our lives. What do we want to do with these kernels of wisdom given to us from God?

If we leave them out in the open, giving no sincerity to its value (the road), the birds will take them away. If we deposit them on rocky ground ( a hard heart, full of pride) we do not give it the opportunity to settle, thus it falls away, and the world is bursting with thorns (anxieties and worries) waiting to choke it from us. We are called to continually maintain our soil of Faith.

For the seed of Faith to cultivate in our hearts we need to practice and maintain the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, fidelity, modesty, continence, and chastity. Our hearts need to be clear of negativity to create room for the good seed. A hardened heart leaves no room for the seed to take root. Consistent and daily practice of tilling the fields (exercising our Faith) allow the seed to settle and blossom in our soul. Here are some very practical ways of make room for the sower (Jesus Christ) in our lives.

First, we must read the Word of God daily. Find time in your day to read scripture and to reflect up-on it. You can do this from your computer in your home or office by visiting our Church’s website (www.saintdem.org) and opening the “Online Chapel.” If you do not have email, contact our church office for a list of the daily readings.

Second, be positive and friendly. Not only should we look strangers in the eye and say “hello,” but we should greet each other with love and sincerity- showing genuine kindness.

Third, forgive. Find it in your heart to forgive, or seek forgiveness from someone you may have hurt. Our ego and pride keeps us from doing so. The buildup of resentment makes it difficult for the Word (seed) to yield its fruit. Forgiveness should be something that we all make an effort to offer and request.

Fourth, offer daily prayers. If you have a smart phone you can access several daily prayers on our Parish’s app. Again, visit our website and download the St. Demetrios App. Daily prayer and communication with God serves as an opportunity to lovingly connect with God.

Lastly, get involved. The Church needs you now more than ever. With the Agape Building’s completion, we have plenty of positions and tasks that have been identified. Whatever your talents are can be put to use so that our community can continue to flourish.

Please, find ways to volunteer at Saint Demetrios. What are your talents? Can you sing? Join the choir. Can you dance? Then teach Greek Dance. Are you willing to help others along in their faith walk/journey? Then educate our youth in Sunday School. You can use your abilities to help plant the seed of Christ in others.

Christ ends the parable of the sower by exclaiming, “Let anyone who hears, hear!” This is our opportunity to till the soil, cultivate our souls, become shining examples and imitators of Christ! Yes, October is a great month! There are lots of things to enjoy and look forward to, but nothing will bring us more peace and joy, than that which comes from our Lord Jesus Christ!

Blessings and peace to you now and always,

Sower and the Seeds

Message from Fr Gary September 2016

Message from Fr Gary September 2016

What I Learned This Summer

As kids prepare to return to school, it reminds me of the classic project teachers assign students, “Write a reflection on what you did this Summer.” Ritualistically, I offer my recollection of a great summer experience. The Ionian Village experience offered an amazing assortment of opportunities to grow in my Faith.

 

Following is a sample of what I encountered. I hope to share as much of the experience as I can in sermons, bible study classes, and future Myrrh-Bearer articles. Each day and each excursion to a new place, monastery, church, historical site, offered new insight as to how Orthodoxy plays a role and shapes us as believers. To sum up the entirety of the message I wish to convey, I saw firsthand, that our Orthodox Christian Faith is a living and dynamic Faith!

 

About 2 miles from the Ionian Village (IV) campground sits a small convent, Panagia Eleousa, pronounced Panagia Eleusa and means, “The tenderness of the Virgin Mary.” The IV program tried to develop a relationship with the nuns that lived there, but it was unsuccessful. The nuns were not interested, and eventually the convent was abandoned. An icon of the Virgin Mary hung above a spring in a cave at the monastery for many years. As the facilities grew lifeless, a thief entered the cave and stole the icon above the spring. The water stopped and the monastery closed.

 

The bishop of the area had a young priest that showed interest in breathing new life into the Holy grounds. That is exactly what Fr. George has done. Fr. George was assigned to the Monastery in Bartholomeo about 18 months ago. A relationship was fashioned between IV and the monastery. The Director of Ionian Village, Fr. Evagoras Constantinides, spoke of his witness of the dried wellspring. A few months into his assignment at the monastery, a woman found a picture of the original icon that sat above the now dried spring.

 

Fr. George took the photo, enlarged it, framed it and positioned it in it’s original spot. “Within an hour,” exclaimed Fr. George, with great emotion, “the spring began to flow and the oil lamps in the chapel began to sway back and forth. The water has not stopped flowing since and the oil lamps rocked for about an hour that day.” As the entire camp crowded the small solea, Fr. George passionately shared this story to the entire camp. Pilgrims suffering from cancer come draw from the spring and later find themselves cured. He explained that many couples that suffered from infertility came to the monastery and drank from the well, later to find themselves with the blessing of a pregnancy. “I have baptized many children born to parents that were told they were not able to conceive. It is a miraculous fount.” Fr. George allowed the campers and staff to take water from the well. We all took sips of refreshment, receiving the blessings of God on that hot summers day.

 

I was moved! Here was a living example of the power of our Christian Faith. I quizzed Fr. George and made him repeat the story to me once more as I analyzed each portion of what he revealed. He knew what I was doing, smiled and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s the power of our Faith.” I asked him to pray for our community, for all those here suffering with cancer and hoping to bring life into this world. He promised to remember the request during the divine liturgies he would celebrate.

 

The staff had a hard time peeling me away from Fr. George. Noticing my fixation, the campers also wanted to hear more from Fr. George. He built on the energy of excitement by inspiring us to stay true to our Faith Tradition. He encouraged the kids to seek spiritual assistance in times of trouble, to never hesitate to call on God and to realize that sometimes when you want something from your father, you have to ask your mother (explaining the importance of the intercessions of the Virgin Mary). We were all touched and provoked. As we returned to the bus and made our way back to the campgrounds, all I could think about was how one man’s service allowed the Holy Spirit to blossom.

 

Fr. George stepped into a situation not many others would have even considered. He offered daily and fervent prayer and found the blessings bestowed to be insurmountable. There was no need to debate with him the scientific reasoning and arguments behind how the spring could have regenerated. It was the presence of God!

 

His delight that Orthodoxy is established and flourishing in America was encouraging. He offered great inspiration and reminded us that the work done by the Church and its people is to be done in the name of Christ. His insistence that all things are possible when we place our hope and faith in God was contagious.

 

My encounter with Fr. George, at this simple monastery, hidden in the wilderness of Bartholmeo, left me with a greater understanding of how ALIVE our Orthodox faith can be when we desire to participate in Her offerings.

In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary Summer 2016

Message from Fr Gary Summer 2016

Fruit of the Spirit

Summer is exciting for many reasons, kids are out of school, vacations are being planned, flowers are in bloom, and the sky is eternally clear and blue. The weather, is undoubtedly, hot; which indicates an importance to keep ourselves hydrated. Drinking water is beneficial on many levels: it helps with the hydration of internal organs, enabling them to function properly; the hydration of skin, keeping it looking fresh and healthy; weight control, it produces increased energy, helps flush out waste and toxins and it maintains our overall health.

As good stewards of the gifts entrusted to us by God we must care for our bodies, not only physically, but spiritually, too. As the days get longer and we enjoy the season of summer, our Holy Orthodox Church prepares to celebrate Pentecost. This offers us an opportunity to reflect on the way we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. Remember, Pentecost is the celebration of the Holy Spirit descending upon the Disciples of Christ 50 days after our Lord’s Resurrection.

The Holy Spirit works within us only when we voluntarily submit to living a life of holiness. St. Paul writes to the Galatians (5:22-23), “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” When we live according to the “fruit of the Spirit” our lives produce the “seed” of love. Fr. Anthony Coniaris writes, “Love is the eternal seed from which all nine fruits grow: Joy is love’s cheerfulness, Peace is love’s confidence, Patience is love’s composure, Kindness is love’s consideration, Goodness is love’s character, Faithfulness is love’s constancy, Meekness is love’s comeliness, and Self-Control is love’s conquest.”

For fruit to grow the plant (or tree) must be properly maintained. Water is a key component. For the “fruit of the Spirit” to grow within us, we must nurture the “seed of love.” This is a difficult thing to do in a world where earthly pleasures are glorified. St. Paul prefaces the above mentioned passage to the Galatians by explaining (Gal 5:19-21), “The works of the flesh are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, and revelries.” There is no room in the life of a Christian for the works of the flesh.

Properly maintaining the fruit of the Spirit transcends our personal relationship to God and extends to our relationship with each other. If we say we love God but have hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions towards our brothers, we are deceiving ourselves (1 John 5:20).

As we prepared to celebrate the great feast of Pentecost let us reflect on the way we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. Do we sow the seeds of love, and strive to penetrate the works of the flesh? Nowhere, in every circumstance are we going to see eye-to-eye on every issue, but as children of God, sowers of the seeds of love, and Christians preparing to celebrate Pentecost we must walk arm-in-arm determined to grow in the Spirit!

In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

What are Sundays For? A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary November 2016

What are Sundays For?


Recently I came across an advertisement that said, “Sundays are for the LA Times.” In the ad, various people, representing every demographic, wonder their kitchen with a mug of coffee, proclaiming, “Sundays are for the LA Times.” Their statement implies, “We have worked hard all week long, it is time to curl up in a ball and spend the day reading the newspaper.” Another commercial shows a young man taking a load of his clothes down to the laundry room. As he opens the washing machine it is packed with dried concrete. Confused the young man turns around, and with the rift of a bass note, a bowling ball glares at him. Fade to black and we see, “Sundays are for bowling.” This ad, just like the LA Times commercial, implies, “Stay home and watch bowling.” So, according to leading Advertising Executives, “Sundays are for staying home and resting.”

 

They’re right. Stay home and rest. That is exactly what Sunday is for, being home and resting. Certainly, this truly depends on your definition of “home” and “rest.” Isaiah 44 warns, “17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships.

 

He prays "Save me; you are my god." 18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand.”

 

We should redefine rest and must plan our time wisely. I was once told that Sunday is the only day of the week that laundry can be done. “Father, my week is so hectic that I just can’t be in Church on Sunday. I need the morning to rest and the day to complete tasks.” This interpretation of the Church, trivializes our worship and the Divine Liturgy. To our children it conveys a message that Church is trivial and insignificant.

 

Our faith in God serves as a source of energy and vitality. It must be anchored in our Church. We read in the 59th Psalm, “O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.” Recall the comic book, “The Green Lantern.” This superhero has a Power Battery that is used to recharge the ring every twenty four hours. Certainly, we need recharging too. The Divine Liturgy is exactly that, a source of power and solitude. An opportunity to reconnect and refresh ourselves in Christ.

 

The Church, in Her infinite wisdom, declares that the Divine Liturgy’s central focus is the reception of Holy Communion. This “Comeunion” nourishes and strengthens us through the remission of sins and the promise of everlasting life. This is the reason why the Church prescribes Divine Liturgy be celebrated at least once a week.

 

Don’t allow simple tasks and errands keep you from participating in the Divine Liturgy. Do not allow the season to dictate how you spend your time renewing yourself in Christ. Sanctify the hours of 9:00 am – 12:00 noon every Sunday as your time with God and fellow Orthodox Christians.

 

Our Parish celebrates Divine Liturgy weekly, on Sunday mornings, beginning with Orthros at 9AM and Divine Liturgy at 10AM. That allows plenty of time for other fun activities! One day soon, maybe a different advertisement will be seen on TV. Imagine, a family walking into St. Demetrios Church, the door being held open by a helpful young adult who kindly greets them. They light their candles, do their cross and as they prepare to enter the Church they turn to the camera and say, “Sundays are for Church.”

 

See you on Sunday.

In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary

Fr Gary

Christ-Centered Parish


I learn a lot of interesting things at committee meetings. At one meeting, when discussing the newsletter of our parish, The Myrrh-Bearer, someone frankly said, “Nobody reads that.” That person is either right or wrong depending on how much further you go into this message. At our most recent Parish Council meeting, a parish council member, politely, combined the conversation about healthy church finances with the status of our relationship with Christ.

It wasn’t me, I wasn’t preaching, it was one of YOUR ELECTED OFFICERS, that was sharing this thought. I was mesmerized by his conviction; I looked around at the other members and they were too! The Holy Spirit was present. His inspiration moved us to take the conversation about Parish financial health to a new level.

“Every year we consider ways to raise money. What fundraisers can we hold? How will we meet our obligation to the Metropolis and Archdiocese? How can we motivate better giving? Instead,” he went on, “How can we serve Christ? How can we instill a deep love for Jesus, in every member, young and old, so that our Parish becomes financially healthy and shows greater concern for how Christ-Centered we are as a group?”

It was refreshing to hear a leader of our community express these thoughts. I have offered them in the past, but it is cliché for the priest to say it, because I’m supposed to. A group begins to reexamine the metric for success when a respected member of the Parish Council looks intently at his peers and says, “Are you concerned for your salvation?” If we look at our challenges through the lens of salvation, that is, how what we do will enhance our relationship with Christ, a new perspective is born.

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