New Year Archive

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A Message From Father Lou – Come, Oh Holy Spirit

“O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Everywhere present and filling all things. Treasury of blessings and Giver of Life, come and abide in us. Cleanse us of all impurity and save our souls O Good One.”

You may recognize this prayer as the Prayer of the Holy Spirit. June 1, this year the Monday following Pentecost Sunday is the Feast of the Holy Spirit. The above prayer is sung at Pentecost Vespers as the Doxastikon (the “Glory” hymn). We have completed this year’s Paschal cycle, again celebrating the glorious and Life-Giving Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We now celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit affording believers the opportunity to participate personally and communally in the Ark of Salvation – the Church – and Life Everlasting. Allow me to focus on one portion of this prayer/hymn in particular – “Come and abide in us“, in Greek, “έλθέ καί σκήνωσον έν ημίν”, (elthe kai skēnoson en ēmēn). A “skēnē” in Greek means tent. The reference then is an invitation to the Holy Spirit to come and live or “pitch” His tent within us. So it is then that the Feast of Pentecost and the Feast of the Holy Spirit represent a completion of God’s salvific offering to human kind: FIRST, through the offering of God the Father to the world of His Only Begotten Son; SECOND, through the entrance into the world of our Lord Jesus of His own free will, His taking on of our sins, death on the cross and glorious and life-giving Resurrection; and THIRD, through the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples as “tongues of fire” providing the believers through His Grace the power to be the Body of Christ.
Our daily opportunity is to again and again affirm God’s grace and love and to continually invite our Lord, of our own free will, to “come and abide in us”, to live in us, to teach us, to guide us, to love us unto all ages. Allow me to conclude with this Vespers Hymn of Praise:

“The Holy Spirit has always been, is now and ever shall be, having neither beginning nor end, but one with the Father and the Son: Life and life-giving; Goodness itself and source of goodness, through whom the Father is made known and the Son is glorified, and is known by all; One Power, One Unity, One Worship, of the Holy Trinity.”

The Grace of our Lord Jesus, the Love of God the Father and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Our Lord’s Blessings,

Fr. Lou

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A Message From Father Lou

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU

THE SUPER BOWL
The NFL season is nearing its end with playoffs and the Super Bowl just around the corner. The Broncos, God-willing will be in the mix again this year. Whether we are talking about the Super Bowl, the NBA finals, the Stanley Cup, the World Cup, the Olympics, or the World Series, athletics and athletes are a part of the fiber of our country, our society and the world.
Steroid scandals notwithstanding, athletes are heroes to millions of people worldwide. Their incredible physical feats are what legends are made of. We have to understand that a 430 ft. homerun in the bottom of the ninth inning, of the seventh game of the World Series is only part physical. The attitude of the player and his mental focus plays more of a role. I once had a coach that believed that a successful athlete had 10 percent talent and 90 percent fortitude. It is more what is inside a person that enables him or her to actualize heroic events in the extreme pressure of the moment.
Our lives are a contest of sorts, with the prize not being a Super Bowl ring, and Olympic gold medal or a multi-million dollar contract. Rather the prize is dwelling within God’s presence now and for all eternity. St. Clement of Alexandria addresses this topic:
“This is the true athlete – one who is crowned for having victory over all passions in the great stadium, the world. For he who directs the contest is the Almighty God, and He who awards the prize is the Only-begotten Son of God. Angels and demons are spectators. And the contest, containing all the different exercises, is ‘not against flesh and blood,’ but against the spiritual powers of unregulated passions that work through the flesh. Those who master these struggles and overthrow the tempter win eternal life.”
Eternal life — is that not our goal? Most athletes are at the top of their game or can expect to play their game for a decade or two. The real question is, how do they live their life off the playing field? Or, how do you or I live our lives in the “Great Stadium” of our home, our work, our school, our play, our life? Do we live now with the ‘fruit of the Spirit’, which is “… love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?” (Galatians 5:22). St. Paul reminds us in these very verses; “… those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit, let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:24-26). How do we relate to others? Are we kind, forgiving, patient and loving? To do so is often a great challenge, a battle, a contest. To do so consistently is a great feat indeed, worthy of legend.
This new year of 2015, as the NFL Playoffs begin and as Super Bowl Sunday approaches with the best two teams and multi-million dollar T.V. commercial spots secured, make a commitment of your life to Christ. Commit to an ascetic and athletic struggle against the passions that challenge you. Remember that this is a contest of spiritual dimensions – not against people but against the powers of darkness. It is only by and with God’s Grace that we can be victors. Have a blessed New Year filled with God’s grace, strength and Divine Presence.
With His Blessings,
Father Lou

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A Message From Fr. Lou – “Thanksgiving” …

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU

Thanksgiving

 

With the beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year 2013-2014, we enter into the 30th year of the existence of our Saint Catherine Parish. Many who were baptized at Slaven’s Elementary School and some who were baptized after our Saint Catherine’s Temple was completed, have now baptized their own children under the protection of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr. The faithful of this Parish have accepted into the “communion of saints” faithful from various Orthodox backgrounds and pilgrims from a variety of Christian traditions and ancient faiths who have chosen to call Orthodoxy their home. We glorify our Lord for His Divine Presence, love and grace. We thank our Lady the Theotokos, and the Great Martyr Catherine for their intercessory prayers and protection. Finally, we thank our founding fathers and mothers and you the faithful who have accepted their leadership mantle to live eucharistically – in thanksgiving.

Evharisto – the root of Eucharist, which means “thank you”, is such a powerful word. Its core “charis” means “grace”. It’s prefix “Ev” means bless. When we therefore thank God – first and foremost – we “bless” our Loving Lord for the grace given to us. Now grace by definition is a free gift, undeserved, if you will. That free gift begins with our life itself and continues with everything that is in us and that we have. Of course, the Eucharist refers to Holy Communion as well. We therefore live in perpetual thanksgiving, in communion with God and one another. This state of being and the attitude of thanksgiving associated with it has at its core our healing from the fall of original sin – through God’s love and grace .

In this 30th Ecclesiastical year of our Saint Catherine Parish, we again offer ministry and participation opportunities for all our parishioners – young and old alike. These are outlined later in this publication. Please take a moment to see where there are ministries to serve your needs and areas where you might serve in thanksgiving to our Lord for the spiritual gifts you have received. If you have any questions about any ministry please refer them to the Ministry Leader, or Alina Buzdugan, our Ministry Teams Coordinator.

May we all have a most blessed and beautiful 2013-2014  Church Year celebrating 30 years of communion in Thanksgiving to our merciful and Loving Lord and God – Father Son and Holy Spirit.

This is the year of the Lord!

With His blessings, Fr. Lou

 

 

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A Change is Needed

As I write this article, it is only days before Christmas. This typical time of joy, excitement, and anticipation, carries with it this year certain somberness. Annually, we are disturbed by the commercialization of this “holiday season” and the various attempts to remove Jesus from the celebration of His birth – as ludicrous as it sounds. This year is no different in that regard. And each year for those of us who have “eyes to see and ears to hear”, our Lord overcomes those obstacles and Emmanuel – God is with us!

This year, however, in the midst of the shortest days of the year in our Northern Hemisphere, an even deeper darkness has permeat- ed the depths of our being – Sandy Hook Elementary School in New- town, CT. An unimaginable act of evil and terror in the murder and massacre of 20 kindergarteners and first graders, 6 of their teachers, and a mother whose “disturbed” 20 year old son shot her while she slept, before his killing rampage and suicide. This heinous act of evil has touched us to the very core. It has brought us to our knees. The most vulnerable and innocent of our little ones were slaughtered…

How do we respond? A change is needed. Unfortunately, these acts of violence are not new. To be sure, in our country with the terrible rise of mass murders in the past decade or so, these terrorist acts on children have become all too familiar. Centuries ago, at the time of Moses, the male infants of the Hebrews were ordered killed by the Egyptian Pharaoh because the Hebrews had become too power- ful. (Exodus 1). Shortly after Jesus’ birth, the Hebrew King Herod ordered all the children under two-years of age to be killed in and around Bethlehem in his attempt to destroy Jesus in fear that He would one day take his thrown. (Matthew 2:16-17). Our Church com- memorates these Holy 14,000 Innocents annually on December 29th. And then there are the more contemporary slaughterings of children at the hands of Adolph Hitler, Stalin, The Killing Fields of Cambodia, Rwanda and Sudan – to name a few.

How do we respond? A change is needed. As we have been “brought to our knees” by this horrific act, let us not be so quick to get up. Let us remain there in prayer and look to the One who of ages past and present brings us out of darkness into the light. (Matthew 4:14-16). As we consider such issues as gun control, mental healthcare, protective measures in schools, malls, theatres, and crowded venues – allow these considerations to be rooted in prayer.

A change is needed. On the 12th day of Christmas, we annually celebrate Theophany/ Epiphany, remembering our Lord’s baptism in the Jordan River, where God in Trinity is revealed. Our belief is that as the Lord stepped into the water of the Jordan, the River reversed its course. Symbolically, as Christ – the God/Man entered into the world, He reestablished fallen nature and humankind to its (and our) “original beauty”. Our journey in response to God’s presence in our lives of actualizing our reclaimed beauty in a world full of pain, suffering, sorrow and death, is an upstream battle, one going against the flow. It requires a soul focus on God.

A change is needed. Jesus began his three-year public ministry following His baptism with the words of His Forerunner, John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). Repentance – a change of mind, a change of attitude, a change of direction is needed. Please read these powerful words written by Father Alexander Karloutsos in his 2012 Christmas message:

“Why is it, I ask, that we insist on giving our children everything our parent’s could not afford to give us and yet desist from giving them the priceless things of value that our parent’s did give us – our faith, culture, and legacy? We buy them apps, but not aptitude for living; we give them toys, but neglect to give them life’s tools; and we give them the best of cars, but without giving them the best road to travel through life. Surprisingly and sadly, out of our abounding love, we’ve given our children an entitlement mentality opposed to a gratitude mindset!”

A change is needed. We need, our children need, our civil lead- ers need, our nation needs, our world needs – GOD. God is our Savior. God is our Hope. God is our Strength. God is our Love. God is our Peace. God is our Life. The change necessary is needed at all levels, but it begins with you and me. It is “grass roots”. Saint Seraphim of Sarov states, “Save yourself and thousands around you will be saved.” In the violence of our world, of our nation, of our cit- ies, of our rural areas, of our entertainment, of our politics, and of our families – we, you and I are called to be peacemakers. As Saint Basil states, “Nothing is so characteristically Christian as being a peacemaker.” In a world of divisions, borders, disagreements, and hatred, we are called to love.

Let this change begin today. With the beginning of our New Year, and still in the midst of the celebration of Christmas and The- ophany, our Lord’s humble entrance into the world and the revelation of God in Trinity, let us allow Him to lead us out of darkness into the Light. As we draw nearer to His Light, may we be renewed and transformed. May He then use us as His beacons of light, hope, love, care, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace for our families, our peers, our nation and the world!

Have a blessed healthy and Spirit-filled New Year! With our Lord’s blessing,
Father Lou

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“Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God!” Matthew 6:33

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU

This September 1, 2009, marks the 25th time that our St. Catherine Parish has begun a new Ecclesiastical Year. With the overall theme of “Every Generation”, marking our Silver Anniversary as a Parish, we have chosen our Religious Education theme for the year: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 6:33)

Please join Father Paul, Father Dino, Our Ministry Leader and me in beginning each day in prayer, thanking our Good Lord for His love, grace and Divine presence in our lives. Let us place one another in God’s care and protection. In a world that seems less and less focused on our Lord, let us endeavor to focus more and more upon Him.

• Begin and end each day in Thanksgiving for God’s love and grace
• Love God, love others, love yourself
• Be humble
• Forgive and ask for forgiveness
• Be compassionate, “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn!” Romans 12:15
• Be kind
• Be patient with others and yourself
• Be peacemakers

Allow me to conclude with the following thought :
“God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. Yes, I do love GOD. He is my source of existence and my Savior. He keeps me functioning each and every day. Without Him, I am nothing, but with Him I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)”
Have a blessed and grace filled Ecclesiastical Year, Seeking first the Kingdom of God.

With our Lord’s Blessings,

Fr. Lou

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JUST SAY “NO”!

Just Say No

My September “Kandili” article encouraged the readers to join Fr. Paul, Fr. Evan and me in beginning each day of our new Ecclesiastical year focusing on Christ our Lord.  After all, life is about Him, not us.  Last month, we examined humility with a reminder of our Lord’s great challenge to be converted to become as “small children” if we desired to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mt. 18:1-5).  Now, this does not refer to being “childish” with the immaturities of childhood.  What it does refer to is to be childlike with a purity of faith, trust and love for God, our True Parent.  A “conversion” here is necessary as following the Fall of Humankind, our tendency is to rely on self and not God.  Quite simply, in order to say “Yes” to God and God’s Will, we must say “No” to our self and our will.  Is this a challenge, or what?

We hear in the Lord’s Prayer, “…Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  To become childlike is to place God’s Will above our own.  What is practically necessary for us to do this?  Humility is of course.  Prayer and fasting are also absolutely necessary as they express our humility on the one hand and serve to deepen it on the other hand.  Why are prayer and fasting absolutely necessary?  They are necessary because they both redirect the focus in our life away from us and towards God, when done with the proper attitude.  Orthodoxy teaches us that proper fasting provides a heart receptive to a genuine encounter with God.  Just what is “proper” fasting?  Simply it is a discipline to help us to learn to say “no” to certain things in our lives with a purpose to learn to say “no” to our wants and desires, to our self.  Again, to say “yes” to God and God’s Will is to say “no” to our self and our will.  Remember what our Lord said to His disciples?  “Whosoever desires to follow me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross and follow me.” ( Mk. 8:34).  Proper fasting helps us to conquer our own selfish desires.  It is like a small “self-persecution”.  Tito Colliander states, “Ultimately it is just this ‘self-persecution’ on which your warfare depends, for as long as your selfish will rules, you cannot pray to the Lord with a pure heart: Thy will be done.  If you cannot get rid of your own greatness, neither can you lay yourself open for real greatness.  If you cling to your own freedom, you cannot share in true freedom, where only one will reigns.”  (Way of the Ascetics, pg. 12).

We must remember that this whole process is going against the post-Fall flow, against what feels natural to us and against what we are often taught and learn in the world around us.  We learn to care for and focus on our self and our wants and desires.  When we do go against the flow and move out of our self, who do we encounter?  Bishop Theophan answers, “We meet God and our neighbor.  It is for this reason that denying oneself is a stipulation, and the chief one, for the person who seeks salvation in Christ:  only so can the center of our being be moved from self to Christ, who is both God and our neighbor.  This means that all the care, concern and love we now lavish on ourselves is then quite naturally and without our noticing it transferred to God and thereby to our fellowmen.” (Way of The Ascetic, pg. 20).

This November, as we celebrate the Entrance into the Temple of the Theotokos on November 21, the Feast of our Patroness, St. Catherine the Great Martyr, November 25, let us allow their great example of sacrificial love to encourage us to live the same way.  On this Thanksgiving Day, the 24th of the month, let us offer thanks to our Lord for life and all of our blessings by loving Him and one another.  Let’s say “no” to our self by saying “yes” to God in all we do.
With the Lord’s blessings,

Fr. Lou