Pascha Archive

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A Message From Fr. Lou – “WITH THE FEAR OF GOD, IN FAITH AND IN LOVE, DRAW NEAR”

“WITH THE FEAR OF GOD, IN FAITH

AND IN LOVE, DRAW NEAR”

 

CHRIST IS RISEN!  TRULY HE IS RISEN!

 

After well over 40 days of preparation, hopefully taking an introspective look at ourselves in relationship with God and one another, re-living the Week of Passion and the Crucifixion of our Lord and then celebrating His glorious and life giving Resurrection, where are we now? What is this time really about for you and me here, today?

In order to answer these questions, let’s re-examine the first centuries of our Christian Faith. The Lenten preparation for Pascha was initially about baptism. Adults, some of whom had prepared for as long as three years, went through their final days of preparation for illumination into the Faith in the 40 days prior to Holy Week. Their baptisms were then celebrated on Pascha Sunday in the Divine Liturgy of the Resurrection. Can you imagine how they must have felt, when they heard for the first time, after such a preparation, the words of the deacon or priest, “In the fear of God, with faith and love draw near”, inviting them to receive Holy Communion with the faithful? Their months and years of preparation surely would have brought them to a fear or awe of God. After all, this God—above imagination, All-Powerful—submitted to become a simple and humble man, taking the sins of humans on His shoulders. He died for all and for each person, so that all and each person might live eternally. “What God is so great as our God…” they must have felt.  And surely they believed in Him. No god of the pagans was a god like God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. No God became a man, died and resurrected like Jesus. No god of old was All-Powerful and yet All-Humble, with them yet separated from them, visible yet invisible.

And then, there was love. The fear or awe of God is most about recognition of God’s love for humankind and for each person. When the deacon or priest invited them to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord for the first time, he invited each of them personally, by their new Christian name, as the “servant of God”. The love of God, at that moment must have become for each of them, deeply intimate. Their time of preparation, of study, of commitment in faith, of prayer was realized as the warmth of “the cup of salvation” permeated their very being. The Bread and Wine transformed, now the Body and Blood entered and completed every member of their body so that they became a new member of the Body of Believers, the Body of Christ.

So, where are we now, centuries later? What is this time of Great Lent, Holy Week and Pascha really about for you and me? We are invited to live anew, to renew our own baptism with fear and awe, with faith and commitment, and ultimately with love.  We are invited to accept once again, the eternal love for us of our Lord and God, allowing Him into our lives most intimately and personally so that He may be our Lord and Savior and we His servants. We are invited to allow His love for us to set us free to love Him, by loving one another. This IS what it is all about. “With the fear of God, in faith and in love draw near.”

On behalf of our clergy and Parish Council, I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard to make this year’s holy days and Pascha so beautiful and special – our choir, chanters, acolytes, Philoptochos and Ministry Teams, cookers, bakers, cleaners, decorators, philanthropists, volunteers and staff.  Glory to God for all you do.  May His Resurrection shine brightly in your hearts today and always.  Until next year . . . (Kai tou  chronou!)

 

CHRIST IS RISEN!  TRULY HE IS RISEN!

 

With our Lord’s blessings, Fr. Lou

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A Message from Father Lou – The Lenten Spring is Here!

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU

The Lenten Spring is Here!

 

“The Lenten spring shines forth, the flower of repentance!
Let us cleanse ourselves from all evil,
crying out to the Giver of Light: ‘Glory to You,

O Lover of man!’”
(Cheesefare  Lenten Vespers)

Great Lent begins this year on Clean Monday, March 3. All too often we look at this period of the fast negatively.  That, however is far from the intent. Listen to the words of Fr. Thomas Hopko from his book, The Lenten Spring:

“The Church welcomes the Lenten spring with a spirit of exaltation. She greets the time of repentance with the expectancy and enthusiasm of a child entering into a new and exciting experience. The tone of the church services is one of brightness and light. The words are a clarion call to a spiritual contest, the invitation to a spiritual adventure, the summons to a spiritual feat…
The Lenten spirit of the church is one of splendor and delight.  It breathes with the exhilaration of those girding up to ‘fight the good fight’ for the One who loves them and has given Himself for the sake of their salvation…The Lenten spring is welcomed by Christians in the church not as a time for self-inflicted agony or self-improving therapy. It is greeted as the sanctified season consecrated to the correction, purification and enlightenment of the total person through the fulfillment of the commandments of the crucified God. It is received as the time for batting with evil spirits and blossoming with the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22). It is accepted as ‘the great and saving forty days’ set apart for complete and total dedication to the things of God.  It is the ‘tithe of the year’ which tells us that all times and seasons belong to the Lord who has created and redeemed the world.” (pg. 9 and 11)
As I reflect back on the many Great Lents that I have participated in – most of them as a clergyman – they’ve each proved to be incredible and growing experiences for me.  Of course the period brings with it challenges with the fasting, services, confessions, visitations etc. that add to my daily routine.  But what I have discovered is that above all, it is a time of renewal, excitement, resurrection in the Love of our Compassionate God.  Each lent brings something new to my consciousness – a new inner light dawns from the Light of Salvation, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As we enter into the sacred time again this year, let us enter with a ‘spirit of exaltation,’ with ‘the enthusiasm of a child entering into a new and exciting experience.’  It is a spiritual adventure connecting us by the Cross to a Resurrected life in the eternal Love of our Compassionate Lord.
Have a great Great Lent!
With our Lord’s blessings,
Fr. Lou

 

 

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Repentance – A Cord Of Three Strands Is Not Easily Broken

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU
“Repentance is the daughter of hope
and the denial of des- pair. It is not de- spondency but eager expectation. It is not self-hatred but the affir- mation of my true self as made in God’s im- age. To repent is to look, not downward at my own shortcomings,
but upward at God’s love; not backward with self-reproach, but forward with trustfulness. It is to see, not what I have failed to be, but what by the grace of Christ I can yet become.” (Saint John Climacus)
Our God is an awesome God full of grace, compassion mercy and love. We have once again come to that annual spe- cial time of repentance and the journey of Great Lent. The above quotation articulates so clearly the Orthodox perspective of repentance which is all too often misunderstood or misinter- preted. Repentance is hopeful and positive, focusing on God’s grace and love rather than despondent and negative focusing on our limitations and shortcomings. Repentance (metanoia) is about redirecting our attitude in life away from self-sufficiency to God-dependency. It is about acknowledging our limitations and sins in honesty but looking upward with hope at God’s grace and love. Simply put, repentance (metanoia) helps us to redirect our focus of life to the one who gives us life – our Loving Lord.
Please join with Father Paul, Father Andrew and me in taking advantage of the tools afforded us by our Lord and His Church to assist us in redirecting our focus away from ourselves and to God. Let’s utilize the “Three Legged Table” of Great Lent” FASTING, PRAYER and ALMSGIVING. Fasting helps us to discipline ourselves and say “NO” to ourselves. Through Prayer we say “YES” to God through private and corporate wor- ship in love. Through “ALMSGIVING we say “Yes” to God by loving “the least of His brothers and sisters” In short we redirect our focus from ourselves through fasting and to God and others through prayer and almsgiving.
Finally, take advantage of the Sacrament of Repent- ance (Confession). This Sacrament is central to our Orthodox

life in Christ. It involves humility, honesty and a willful desire to submit more to God. It is a sacrament of healing with a confessor called a “physician of soul”. Sin is the ailment. Forgiveness is the care. Why not make a “spiritual” doctor appointment for confes- sion this Great Lent? You and I need it. We need healing from the Great Physician of our souls and bodies through the ancient sac- rament of His Church. May our Good and Merciful Lord be with you the reminder of this Lenten period. May we all have a blessed Holy Week and a glorious life-giving Paschal celebration!
With our Lord’s Blessings, Fr. Lou

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RETURN – It’s the Soul purpose of Great Lent

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU RETURN – It’s the Soul purpose of Great Lent

That incredible time of Great Lent is nearing again this year with Clean Monday on March 18. In fact Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians began Lent on February 13, with an early Easter, March 31. Our Pascha this year will be celebrat- ed on May 5. So, just what is the purpose of Great Lent? It’s “soul” purpose is returning to God. It is a return to the original beauty in which we were created – a beauty of union in harmo- ny with God and then with one another. The consequences of the Ancestral Sin were the fall of humankind, a distortion of that original beauty, with a focus on the self and the material realm first – rather than God and the spiritual realm. It is a sep- aration first from God and in turn from one another. This sepa- ration from the “Life-Giver,” consequentially brings about death. The ultimate death, however, is not physical, it is spiritu- al. If not healed, this separation brings about the destruction of our soul.

And so it is that God, in God’s great mercy and love offers healing for our souls. First, through the “Word” – the Holy Scriptures, the prophets and the law and then the Word, Him- self enters into the world to reclaim our fallen race, by becom- ing one of us, taking our sins upon His shoulders, dying upon the cross – destroying the power of death and the evil one – and resurrecting – reclaiming the original beauty of the human race. And finally, by sending the Holy Spirit into the Church – the Body of believers to complete and live out this reclamation project of Return and re-union.

Great Lent is that annual re-telling of the story of our human condition and invitation to re-connect with God and our fellow humans. Of course, the yeoman’s portion of the work has been accomplished by our Merciful and Loving God, yet our free-will response, is a necessary component to our souls’ salvation. The central themes to our free-will response to God’s invitation are:

  •   A desire to be with God. This desire is predicated upon

    humility and an attitude of gratitude, a realization that our very life and all the good that entails are gifts from God. We are not self-sufficient. We need God to live;

  •   A resolve – a choice to return to the One who gives us life. This return requires a change of focus and direction from our self and the material realm, primarily to God and the

spiritual realm. This is against our fallen human tendency. This is repentance. It is understood in our Orthodox life as a life long journey often entailing hard work;

 Re-union with God. Sharing with Him in the joy of Pascha through which His Life-giving Resurrection is enlivened in us not only at the end of our life but in the midst of it.

The three legged stool of the Great Lenten journey is Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Prayer nourishes our desire and helps us re-connect with the Life-Giver, our Loving Lord. Fasting assists us in the turning primarily away from our selfish focus and to God. It involves struggle and commitment, perhaps a war. It is waged first in the physical realm because it is precisely there that we are too focused. The result of that over focus is a sick soul. Healing comes through re-focusing, returning to God. And finally, Almsgiving helps us to re-direct our focus to our fellow human beings. By loving “the least of God’s brothers and sis- ters,” we love him. (MT. 25:39-41)

Our Lenten Pilgrimage draws near. Let’s use the beauti- ful tools offered at this time of year to Return to our Loving Lord, dying more to our self-focus and living more in the Life-giving Presence, death on the Cross and Glorious and Life Giving Vic- tory in the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Have a blessed Great Lent with our Lord’s Grace and blessings,

Fr. Lou

Listed on the following pages are Great Lenten opportu- nities for prayer, scriptural and spiritual readings, repentance and confession, retreats, charity and acts of kindness.

THE LENTEN PRAYER OF ST. EPHRAIM

(Said daily in Great Lent)

Lord and Master of my life, de- liver me from the spirit of laziness and meddling, the lust for power and gossip. (Prostration)

Rather, grant the spirit of wis- dom, humility, patience, and love to me your servant. (Prostration)

Yes, Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not to judge others. For you are

blessed to the age of ages. Amen. (Prostration)

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The Journey of Great Lent

by Fr. Lou Christopulos

Clean Monday, the first day of Great Lent, is February 19 this year. Our Pascha is celebrated on April 8, the same day as Western Christian Easter. The 40-days of Lent is primarily about repentance – an attitudinal change, a shift of focus away from ourselves and to God, utilizing such tools as prayer, fasting and charity. When we focus on ourselves primarily and things of this world, we “miss the mark” or sin. When we redirect our focus primarily to God, we “hit the mark”, we live the way we were created to live.

Some important Lenten questions:

What is the Triodion? This is a period of time in the Church including the four pre-Lenten Sundays of preparation for Lent, Great Lent and Holy Week.

How long is Great Lent? It is 40-days from Clean Monday (February 19 this year) to the Saturday of Lazarus, before Palm Sunday. This Saturday, Palm Sunday, and Holy Week are NOT technically a part of Great Lent. Nevertheless, our fast continues through these days, with a partial relaxation on Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday, picking up in its strictness on Palm Sunday Night through Holy Week to Pascha.

Why do we fast? We humans are psychosomatic. We have a soul and a body. The true fast is psychic – a spiritual or soul fast from sin. The psychology of the Church teaches us that to get to this spiritual fast, we must go through our body. Thus, we fast from food to help us in our self-discipline. If we can say no to simpler things, such as food, it helps us to say no to more difficult things such as gossip and judging others. Fasting also helps us to redirect our focus on God. When I’m hungry, I am in need. I recognize that I am not self-sufficient. I need basic food to live. Basic food is from God. Another element of fasting is doing without for ourselves, so we can help others. Charity or almsgiving then is a direct result of saving money spent on food or things for ourselves, and re-directing that money to help others in need.

How do we fast? The ultimate fast is a fast from sin. This is the goal of fasting. The prescribed Lenten food fast helping us to that goal begins on Meatfare Sunday, eight days before Great Lent with a fast from meat and begins on Clean Monday with a fast through Holy Saturday, from meat, fish, dairy products, oil and wine – with some exceptions: a lessening of the fast on weekends (oil is permitted); and on the Annunciation and Palm Sunday (fish, wine and oil permitted). There are variations to this fast for a variety of reasons including health, age, children, travel and living in a non-Orthodox country. For variation questions, speak with one of our clergy. But remember, it is better to eat meat than to devour your brother or sister.

What about prayer? Prayer is one main way of communicating with God. We praise God, we thank God, we ask for help for others and ourself. WE ask for forgiveness, for guidance, for strength. Great Lent is a time for heightened prayer life – both personal and corporate. Weekly throughout Lent we have Compline Services on Mondays, Pre-Sanctified Liturgies on Wednesdays and Salutation Services on Fridays. Additionally, we are challenged to be more regular and focused in our personal daily prayer life. The Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian sets the tone for our personal prayer approach to our Lord. Also, the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me a sinner,” is a formula for constant prayer.
What about almsgiving or charity? This is essential in helping us to turn to God directly and indirectly, by helping the “least of his brothers and sisters.” As was mentioned in “Why do we Fast?” turning to God involves turning away from ourselves, re-directing our attention to helping others. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving or charity are the three legs of the Lenten table.

What about Confession? Confession, or more appropriately, the Sacrament of Repentance, is simply knowing ourselves, recognizing the ways we miss the mark, acknowledging them and attempting to change. We can do this on our own, which can be helpful. Sacramentally, when we do this with a confessor, “two or more are gathered in Christ’s name” and the Grace of God is imparted in a healing and strengthening manner. Confession times are listed on the calendar. Take advantage of this healing sacrament utilizing honesty and humility as a garment of re-baptism and re-generation of our life in Christ.

May Great Lent be a time of re-focus in our life – away from ourselves and to God.
May we “die”
More to the un-Godly aspects of our life, in Christ’s death and live anew in His Glorious and life-giving
Resurrection.

Fr. Lou Christopulos

The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim (said daily in Great Lent)

Lord and Master of my life, deliver me from the spirit of laziness, despondency, desire for power over others, and useless talk. (Prostration) Give rather to me your servant, a spirit of purity, humility, patience and love. (Prostration) Yes Lord and King, allow me to see my own sins and faults and not to judge others. For you are blessed forever and to the age of ages. Amen. (Prostration)

St. John Chrysostom on Fasting

Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eyes and the ears and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice. Let the feet fast by ceasing to run after sin. Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful. Let the ears fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip. Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism. For what is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers? May He who came to the world to save sinners strengthen us to complete the fast with humility, have mercy on us and save us.

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Pentecost: From Law to Grace


Christ is Risen!

The Feast of Pentecost occurs this year on Sunday, June 11, fifty days following Pascha. We know the Scriptural reference from Acts, Chapter Two, when on the Day of Pentecost, the Apostles were gathered in Jerusalem and the Holy Spirit descended upon them as “tongues of fire” and they began to speak in various tongues. Peter preached about Christ to a great crowd, each of whom heard him in their own native dialect. On that day some 3,000 people were baptized and thus, the Church began.

What we may not know is that Pentecost was not originally a Christian Feast. It was a Jewish Feast. It was celebrated 50 days following Pesach (Passover). Its Hebrew name was Shavu’ot or “Festival of Weeks”. It had an agricultural and religious significance. On the one hand, it was a harvest feast of first fruits (of wheat or corn) with a harvest thanksgiving offering brought to the Temple. Religiously, it commemorated the giving of the Torah or the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai following their release from bondage in Egypt. Jews from the entire region would gather in Jerusalem to offer their harvest first fruits and read all night from the Torah. Judaism still celebrates this Festival, counting daily from the second day of Pesach to the Eve of Shavu’ot, 49 days or seven full weeks, reminding them of the important connection between the two feasts. Passover freed them from physical bondage, but the giving of Torah redeemed them spiritually from bondage to idolatry and immorality. Pentecost is the Hellenized word for the Feast referring to 50 days. It was and is for Jews a thanksgiving harvest feast of first fruits and a celebration of the giving of Torah and the Law.

Is Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior? We of course believe that He is. Please note then, for those who believe He is, how the feasts of Pesach (Pascha or Passover) and Shavu’ot (Pentecost) are transformed or rather fulfilled in Christ. The Passover lamb sacrifice in Egypt of old, the marking of the doorposts of the Hebrew homes with the lamb’s blood and the Angel of Death passing over them allowed Jews freedom after 400 years of bondage. Christ, the Messiah, becomes the New Paschal Lamb. His Perfect blood sacrifice, death on the cross and His glorious three day resurrection allows His followers to be set free from eternal bondage to sin with a Passover to life eternal, following death.

The Feast of Shavu’ot (Pentecost), in Christ and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is transformed or rather fulfilled from a celebratory feast of the giving of Torah or the Law to a feast celebrating the receiving of the Grace of the Holy Spirit; from a harvest feast of thanksgiving, in offering the harvest’s first fruits, to a feast celebrating the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ – The Messiah – The Savior and in the Holy Spirit, the People of the Law are transformed or fulfilled to and in the People of Grace.

In the words of St. Paul, “…the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith, but after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you who have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:24-29).

May you and I, through the Love of God the Father and the Power of the Holy Spirit, put on Christ, become heirs according to the promise and live as People of Grace.

Christ is Risen!
Fr. Lou

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The Journey of Great Lent

Clean Monday, the first day of Great Lent, is March 6 this year. Our Pascha is celebrated on April 23, one week after Western Christian Easter. The 40-days of Lent is primarily about repentance – an attitudinal change, a shift of focus away from ourselves and to God, utilizing such tools as prayer, fasting and charity. When we focus on ourselves primarily and things of this world, we “miss the mark” or sin. When we redirect our focus primarily to God, we “hit the mark”, we live the way we were created to live.

Some important Lenten questions:

What is the Triodion? This is a period of time in the Church including the four pre-Lenten Sundays of preparation for Lent, Great Lent and Holy Week.

How long is Great Lent? It is 40-days from Clean Monday (March 6 this year) to the Saturday of Lazarus, before Palm Sunday. This Saturday, Palm Sunday and Holy Week are NOT technically a part of Great Lent. Nevertheless, our fast continues through these days, with a partial relaxation on Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday, picking up in it’s stictness on Palm Sunday Night through Holy Week to Pascha.

Why do we fast? We humans are psychosomatic. We have a soul and a body. The true fast is psychic – a spiritual or soul fast from sin. The psychology of the Church teaches us that to get to this spiritual fast, we must go through our body. Thus, we fast from food to help us in our self-discipline. If we can say no to simpler things, such as food, it helps us to say no to more difficult things such as gossip and judging others. Fasting also helps us to redirect our focus on God. When I’m hungry, I am in need. I recognize that I am not self-sufficient. I need basic food to live. Basic food is from God. Another element of fasting is doing without for ourselves, so we can help others. Charity or almsgiving then is a direct result of saving money spent on food or things for outselves, and re-directing that money to help others in need.

How do we fast? The ultimate fast is a fast from sin. This is the goal of fasting. The prescribed Lenten food fast helping us to that goal begins on Meatfare Sunday, eight days before Great Lent with a fast from meat and begins on Clean Monday with a fast through Holy Saturday, from meat, fish, dairy products, oil and wine – with some exceptions: a lessening of the fast on weekends (oil is permitted); and on the Annunciation and Palm Sunday (fish, wine and oil permitted). There are variations to this fast for a variety of reasons including health, age, children, travel and living in a non-Orthodox country. For variation questions, speak with one of our clergy. But remember, it is better to eat meat than to devour your brother or sister.

What about prayer? Prayer is one main way of communicating with God. We praise God, we thank God, we ask for help for others and ourself. WE ask for forgiveness, for guidance, for strength. Great Lent is a time for heightened prayer life – both personal and corporate. Weekly throughout Lent we have Compline Services on Mondays, Pre-Sanctified Liturgies on Wednesdays and Salutation Services on Fridays. Additionally, we are challenged to be more regular and Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian sets the tone for our personal prayer approach to our Lord. Also, the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me a sinner,” is a formula for constant prayer.

What about almsgiving or charity? This is essential in helping us to turn to God directly and indirectly, by helping the “least of his brothers and sisters.” As was mentioned in “Why do we Fast?” turning to God involves turning away from ourselves, re-directing our attention to helping others. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving or charity are the three legs of the Lenten table.

What about Confession? Confession, or more appropriately, the Sacrament of Repentance, is simply knowing ourselves, recognizing the ways we miss the mark, acknowledging them and attempting to change. We can do this on our own, which can be helpful. Sacramentally, when we do this with a confessor, “two or more are gathered in Christ’s name” and the Grace of God is imparted in a healing and strengthening manner. Confession times are listed on the calendar. Take advantage of this healing sacrament utilizing honesty and humility as a garment of re-baptism and re-generation of our life in Christ.

May Great Lent be a time of re-focus in our life – away from ourselves and to God. May we “die” more to the un-Godly aspects of our life, in Christ’s death and live anew in His Glorious and life-giving Resurrection.

With our Lord’s Blessings,

Fr. Lou