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

Message from Fr Gary December 2016

Who are the Magi and what can we offer our Infant Savior?


Magi is the plural form of the word “Magus.” What, then, is a Magus? In Webster’s Third New International Dictionary the following two definitions are given: 1) a member of a hereditary priestly class among the ancient Medes and Persians whose doctrines include a belief in astrology; one of the traditionally three wise men from the East who according to the Gospel of Matthew paid homage to the infant Jesus 2) an adept in occult arts: magician, sorcerer.

At first glance a faithful Christian may be disturbed with the description of the Magi as “sorcerers or magicians.” This seems to be a conflicting message. By today’s standards a person amused by sorcery and magic does not fit the definition of a Christian. Since as putting your hope and trust in anything other than Christ leaves little room to follow His instruction. Giving credence to such belief closes the door on the Christian values.

The other definitions of the Magi seem to fit our understanding of the Nativity of Christ. The Magi were priests, they are mentioned in the Gospel of St. Matthew, and they had a good understanding of astrology. Why does St. Matthew mention the wise men in his description of the birth of Jesus?

Christ’s entrance into this world and His human nature are all foretold by the Prophets. Jesus Christ fulfills the will of God and all the scripture from the Law and the Prophets. A star is revealed to the Magi, who live in the east, inspiring them to seek out the Christ child. When they approach King Herod with their desire to see the Infant King, they remind Herod of the writings of the Prophet Micah who exclaimed, “But you, O Bethlehem . . . from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.” Herod then sends them out to find the baby Jesus.

Matthew’s mention of the actions of the Magi be-comes clearer when we focus on their conduct as they encounter the “place where the child was.” “They fell down and worshipped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)” Three of the wisest men in all of Judea knelt before an infant! An infant who had no words of wisdom to share, they knelt before him, gave praise, and offered gifts. St. Mat-thews mention of the Magi is an exhibition in humility. A great sign was revealed to these intelligent priests, and through faith, they sought after the Savior offering their treasure. They abandoned the superstitions of their forefathers and find new life in Christ!

What are gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and what is their significance? Frankincense was a very valuable commodity in ancient times. It is an incense taken from the gum resin of east African or Arabian trees. Myrrh is a yellow to reddish brown aromatic bitter gum resin that is also obtained from trees found in east Africa or Arabic countries. In ancient times people used myrrh as the chief ingredient for a sweet smelling perfume and a remedy for a local application. Gold represents extreme value, and is one of the most desirable minerals of all time.

The hymns chanted on the feast day of the Nativity make very few references to the crucifixion and death of Jesus. They mainly concentrate on Christ, the Word of God, “the Logos,” taking on flesh and entering the world in human form. The gifts of the Magi are mentioned in hymns chanted on the day after Christmas. In those hymns the gifts make reference to the three days Christ spends in the tomb. Gold, the most celebrated earthly possession, rising to heaven with the two, very valuable, forms of incense (frankincense and myrrh).

What can we offer the Infant Savior this Christ-mas? Like the Magi, let us first offer our humility by acknowledging His divinity. Let’s fall down before Him and worship Christ God. The Magi were renewed by the Birth of Jesus. When they left the cave, the birthplace of our Lord, they also left behind their former practices of sorcery and magic. They were renewed by the nativity of our Lord. Let us take the example of the three wise men and leave behind our evil ways. Lets abandon our attachment to the devices of this world and seek out the peace of God.

Lets renew ourselves with the Birth of our Lord!

Christ is born.
Glorify Him!

In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

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 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

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

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 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 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

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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