Theophany Archive

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A Message From Fr. Lou A New Year – A New Beginning

A NEW YEAR – A New Beginning

“As sins consist mostly of malice and pride, it is necessary to treat everyone who suffers from the malady of sin with kindness and love. This is an important truth, which we often forget. Very often we act in the opposite manner; we add malice by our anger, we oppose pride to pride. Thus, evil grows within us, and does not decrease; it is not cured – rather it spreads.” (St. John of Kronstadt.)
“If we have true love with sympathy and patient labor, we shall not go about scrutinizing our neighbor’s shortcomings. As it is said, ‘Love shall cover the multitude of sins,’ (I Peter 4:8)…True love screens anything of this kind, as did the saints when they saw the shortcomings of men. Were they blind? Not at all! But they simply would not let their eyes dwell on sins.” (St. Dorotheos of Gaza).
With our entry into another New Year, we prepare for the celebration yet again of the Feast of Theophany or Epiphany, literally, “the manifestation of God,” or simply, “the manifestation.” On January 6th, our focus is upon the baptism of Jesus and the manifestation of God in Trinity, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, ”…when He had been baptized… behold the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him and suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.’ ” (3:16-17). Historically, immediately following His baptism, our Lord went into the wilderness, fasted for forty days and was tempted there by the devil. Conquering these temptations He returned to Galilee and began His three year public ministry with the words, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt.4:17)
As we begin this New Year in preparation for God’s Manifestation (Theophany) it is in the context of these words from our Lord, that I share with you the quotations from above. We understand “repentance” as a change in mind, a return if you will, to God. The outcome of that re-focus on God, is a different perspective towards our fellow humans. It involves a perspective of humility, compassion and love – emanating from God’s Grace. Humility allows us, when we see another’s sins to recognize that we too, are sinners. We have that malady as well with a constant need for soul healing from our Lord. The temptation to scrutinize another’s shortcomings will, through humility turn back to our own need for forgiveness from God. This leads to compassion. Because of our own sin – by propensity and choice – we are one with other sinners – co-sufferers if you will – “sympathoi” – in need of God. This takes us to a call from the depths of our being upon Him for help, for forgiveness, for love. And then our Lord delivers. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have life everlasting.” (Jn 3:16).
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’” (Mt.1:23)
It is the Love of God towards us that allows us to abide in the security of it’s comforting embrace – even in the midst of our shortcomings. Then we desire to love God from the depth of our being. As this love goes out from us towards God: it naturally embraces those around us; it naturally casts out the evil one who hates love; it naturally is patient; is kind; is not jealous or boastful; is not envious or rude; it naturally believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things. Love never ends. (I Corinthians 13).
A new beginning. As we begin this year of 2014, may it be a year of our Lord. In His Grace and Love may we in humility and with compassion, love Him and our neighbor as our self.
Have a most blessed and Godly New Year,
Fr. Lou

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A Divine Work of the People

Every Sunday and many weekdays during the course of the year, Orthodox faithful throughout the world gather for a “Divine work of the people”. We know it as a Divine Liturgy. Divine, of course refers to God and the word “liturgy” comes from two Greek words, “litos”, meaning “people” and “ergo”, meaning “work”. This Divine and human communion is the essence of life for Christians, referencing the relationship between God and humans. God gives to us all that we have and we gather to offer thanks to Him for His gifts of life, love and sustenance. The central act of this worship is the Eucharist or Holy Communion. The word “Eucharist” in fact is from the Greek word, “evharistia’, which literally means, “thanksgiving”. This giving and thanking is circular in nature providing for a constant flow of love in relationship between God and us. It is kind of like a liturgical dance between the Bridegroom (our Lord) and His bride (the Church).

This month of January, we will focus our Religious Education Ministry on the theme, “The Divine Liturgy”. On Sunday, January 8, we will invite students from Church School, their teachers, parents and other adults into the sanctuary at the regular time for Church School (9am). We will then have a presentation for all about the Divine Liturgy. The Liturgy that day will be a teaching Liturgy. This theme will be then focused on in Church School and Adult Discussion for the remainder of the month.

The essential characteristic of the “Divine work of the people” for us is worship, since it is through worship that we approach God. Sunday, the Lord’s Day (Kyriaki), is also the first day of the week. This worship provides for us the proper context for the beginning of our week with God. It then sets the tone for how we live our lives weekly, daily, even moment by moment. We live our lives in a constant flow of thanksgiving in relationship with God. EVERYTHING we do, EVERY moment we live, EVERY breath we take is with God in mind. That is how God has created us, to be in constant communion with Him.

As we begin this New Year of 2006, let us begin in worship and thanksgiving. The new year, the new month, the new day, the new minute, the new second are all about God. Be it therefore resolved that we live our total lives as a thanksgiving offering to Him — in worship, in school, in work and in play — let EVERYTHING in our lives be “A Divine work of the people”.

Services for Holy Theophany (Epiphany) will be held on January 5th and 6th, as are scheduled on the January calendar. If anyone would like to schedule a house or business blessing, please contact Fr. Evan or myself.

In Christ,

Fr. Lou

On behalf of Fr. Paul, Fr. Evan, our staff, our Parish Council, Philoptochos and Ministry Teams, may our Good and Loving Lord bless you and your loved ones with a most beautiful and Spirit-filled 2006. Kali Chronia!